Experts warn that expensive COVID-19 pill and stockpiling could cause treatment inequality
Updated: 2021-10-18 17:47:50 KST
The antiviral pill Molnupiravir produced by U.S. drugmaker Merck, is on course to become the first oral COVID-19 treatment.
If the FDA grants it emergency use authorization, it could become a potential pandemic game changer, by allowing patients to be treated without going to hospital.
This is how it works.
Once a patient tests postive, they can start a course of molnupiravir.
That involves four capsules twice a day for five days.
So, a total of 40 pills.
CNN reports that the U.S. agreed to pay 1.2 billion for 1.7 million courses if the pill is approved.
That makes each course,roughly 700 dollars.
And according to Airfinity, 10 countries or territories are already in negotiations or have signed deals for the pills.
Eight of them are in the Asia-Pacific region, including South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia.
Experts believe these countries could be trying to avoid their past mistakes in vaccine purchases, when their late grabs delayed their inoculation programs.
But experts caution that stockpiling by some countries could lead to a repeat of vaccine inequality, where wealthier countries were accused of hoarding doses as poor countries missed out.
The non-profit Doctors Without Borders emphasizes that the treatment is a "potentially lifesaving care" in areas where many are unvaccinated.
And they call for a patent waiver, so that it can be produced all across the world.
The raw materials are found to cost roughly 18 dollars per course.
Earlier in the pandemic, patent waivers for vaccines were rejected by a small number of governments.
Lee Kyung-eun, Arirang News.