Molnupiravir, an antiviral pill for Covid-19, will be available in S'pore once approved: MOH

Data from clinical trials suggests the drug is most effective when given early in the course of infection. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - People infected with any known variant of the coronavirus, including the Delta variant, may soon have access to a pill for Covid-19 treatment once the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) gives the green light for it, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

It said on Thursday (Oct 7) in response to queries from The Straits Times that it has signed an agreement with MSD Pharma - known as Merck in the United States and Canada - to purchase molnupiravir.

Molnupiravir is an antiviral pill to treat Covid-19 by targeting an enzyme that the virus needs to make copies of itself, by introducing errors into its genetic code.

This particular enzyme - known as the viral polymerase - does not change across the different variants, making the drug effective across the Gamma, Delta and Mu variants.

Data from clinical trials suggests the drug is most effective when given early in the course of infection, said MSD.

Interim trial results last Friday showed the drug may reduce the chance of hospitalisation or death by half for patients who are at risk of severe disease.

The drug will be available for use after MSD submits its data to HSA and obtains authorisation for use in Singapore. The timeline for approval is dependent on the company's submission of data to HSA, said MOH.

As MOH closely tracks the progress of Covid-19 therapeutic candidates under development globally, the addition of molnupiravir to its portfolio of Covid-19 treatment ensures that there is a range of treatment options for different patient groups, it added.

MOH said it is unable to disclose more information, such as on how many courses of the drug will be procured, citing commercial sensitivities and confidential undertakings in the purchase agreement.

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