Molnupiravir, Merck & Co’s experimental antiviral pill against COVID-19, will be rolled out in the Philippines by November through hospitals with compassionate special permits (CSPs), the Filipino importer MedEthix said Wednesday.
MedEthix co-founder Monaliza Salian said the volume imported from their supplier will cover 300,000 COVID-19-positive patients.
Salian said hospitals with CSPs will prescribe the pill to patients as molnupiravir has yet to be given an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
JackPharma Inc. president Meneleo Hernandez said molnupiravir will be taken twice a day for five days or as prescribed by the physician.
Hernandez said they estimate that the cost of molnupiravir will be around P130 to 150 for each capsule.
Molnupiravir may be taken orally once exposed to COVID-19 as it decreases by half the chances of mild cases from becoming severe as well as the chances of exposed individuals from acquiring the illness.
MedEthix was appointed to import molnupiravir under the brand name Molnaflu by Aurobindo, a company that entered into a licensing agreement with Merck.
It then partnered with JackPharma to increase the reach of the pill to hospitals and medical institutions in compliance with the CSP requirements of the FDA.
Salian said MedEthix has applied for an EUA for the drug in the Philippines.
Hernandez said JackPharma and MedEthix will be watching out for adverse events.
“On our part, with JackPharma as well as MedEthix, we do have a hotline that we are also providing to our doctors so that if there are any kinds of adverse events, we will be able to record them,” he said.
He added that clinical studies conducted by Aurobindo showed the drug was effective against COVID-19, but these did not differentiate among the several variants of the coronavirus.
Molnupiravir, developed by Emory University and MSD (Merck), will allow patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms to be treated early in an outpatient setting. MSD has signed voluntary in-licensing deals with Indian pharma manufacturers to supply Molnupiravir to low- and middle-income countries, including the Philippines.
As the first local importer to be granted CSP as early as September, MedEthix is likely to be the first to distribute the new drug to Filipinos through its partnerships with hospitals.
Molnupiravir works by introducing copying errors during viral RNA replication. The drug enters the COVID-19 virus and alters it to become harmless. Even if the virus replicates, it is no longer deadly.
Results of clinical trials sponsored by MSD licensee Aurobindo Pharma in India showed that 81 percent of the 1,200 mild cases taking Molnupiravir had negative RT-PCR results on the fifth day of treatment. This is compared to 17 percent of cases given only Standard of Care. All the patients included in the study were treated at home, which lessens the stress of finding a hospital that can accommodate COVID-19 patients.
Molnupiravir comes in a 200mg capsule with a recommended regimen of 800mg to be taken twice daily for five days or as prescribed by a physician. It comes in a bottle of 40 capsules, which is the entire dose.
The Manila city government on Wednesday said it has procured 40,000 doses of molnupiravir for mild and moderate cases of COVID-19.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said the city will buy more medicine to address COVID-19 infections.