Australia to buy Merck’s COVID-19 pill in wake of delta variant surge

Australia to buy Merck’s COVID-19 pill in wake of delta variant surge

Stepping up to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently revealed plans to purchase 300,000 courses of drug maker Merck’s experimental antiviral drug. The move comes as Victoria records the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases across all states since the pandemic hit.

Victoria witnessed 1,763 new infections, surpassing the previous daily high of 1,488. The state plans to only reopen once vaccination levels in its adult population reach 70%, which it expects to achieve by October end.

Experts believe that Merck’s molnupiravir might cut the number of patients dying or being hospitalized from the condition by half. It will be the first oral antiviral drug for COVID-19 if it receives regulatory approval.

A five-day treatment of molnupiravir for adults entails taking one pill twice a day. If it is authorized for use by Australia's drug authority, the drug should be ready by early next year, said Morrison.

By the end of 2021, Merck plans to have produced 10 million courses of the treatment.

The Prime Minister expressed that these treatments imply Australia will be able to live with the virus. The continent plans to reopen its borders to fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents next month, sources cited.

Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, and Thailand have all expressed interest in purchasing the possible medication, while the Philippines is currently conducting a pill study.

Meanwhile, Australia is ramping up its vaccine efforts, with the country's main cities, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the capital, Canberra, undergoing a weeks-long lockdown to battle the infectious Delta variant.

Despite the Delta outbreaks, Australia's coronavirus numbers are still considerably low, with roughly 115,800 cases recorded. The continent witnessed 1,357 deaths, however, the vaccination of vulnerable population has decreased the fatality rate as compared to last year.

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