DOH eyes access to Merck’s COVID-19 pill once proven beneficial

JOAHNA LEI CASILAO,GMA News

The Philippines will try to obtain a better position to purchase Merck & Co’s experimental antiviral pill molnupiravir if ever it is proven beneficial, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

Asked during a media forum if the government has plans to purchase the medicine, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, “Siyempre naman [Of course].”

“Kapag may mga ganitong bagong produkto or investigational products tayo naman po ay nakikipag-negotiate, and we try to have that kind of position where we can access this kind of drug,” Vergeire said.

(When there are new products or investigational products, we negotiate and we try to have that kind of position where we can access this kind of drug.)

Vergeire said a clinical trial on the pill was launched at the Lung Center of the Philippines early this year, which will allow the country more access to the medicine.

“Makikita rin natin that we can have more access to this medicine because we have this clinical trial counterpart. So antayin po natin. Syempre may mga regulatory processes ‘yan,” she said.

(We can see that we have more access to this medicine because we have this clinical trial. So let’s wait for it. Of course, there are regulatory processes.)

“But definitely, if this is a game-changer, it’s really going to be of benefit to the population, our country, the national government, will try to position to have better access to this drug,” Vergeire added.

Molnupiravir could lessen the chances of dying or being hospitalized for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19, according to data that experts hailed as a potential breakthrough in how the virus is treated.

The DOH has said that the pill can be made available locally if the drug manufacturers apply and hurdle regulatory processes in the country.

Several Asian countries are in talks with Merck & Co. for the purchase of the molnupiravir such as Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia. —KBK, GMA News

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