Budget bill amendment sought for procurement of game-changing COVID-19 pills

Published October 10, 2021, 7:34 PM

by Ben Rosario

The procurement of Molnupiravir, an anti-viral pill that its developer Merck & Co.boasts as a potential game changer in the fight against COVID-19, will have to be considered in amending the proposed 2022 national budget.

Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte-Salceda aired this possibility even as he called for the grant of vaccination allowance and better registration procedures to encourage Filipinos to get the COVID-19 jab.

Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said the slowdown in daily vaccination count has become noticeable notwithstanding the fact that the Philippines has at least 30 million dosage of various COVID-19 vaccines awaiting to be administered.

The senior administration lawmaker said the Department of Health proposal to launch a raffle for still unvaccinated Filipinos is welcome but he would rather propose the grant of allowances.

“The problem is not the lack of some probability of winning a big prize. The problem is for many, they have to skip a work day just to get jabbed. For the average wage worker, that will cost them the day’s pay.” said Salceda, who is also vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

He also urged government to initiate now talks for the procurement of Molnupiravir, an oral medicine that has shown promise in its efficacy to address the COVID-19.

Experimental medication of the drug has reportedly reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by about 50 percent of the adults included in the study who had mild-to-moderate symptoms of the lethal viral disease.

“Of course, vaccination is the key to some sort of normalcy, but if we really want a world where COVID-19 is not only controlled, but is no longer a fearsome disease, we need drugs that can cure them quickly,” said Salceda., He added: “With the release of Molnupiravir, I think the race for a mass-use COVID-19 therapeutic has accelerated. We need to procure.” Salceda said allocating budget for the bulk purchase of molnupiravir should be studied and decided immediately.

“So I would like to appeal to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to enter exploratory talks with the manufacturer already. Our neighbors Singapore and Australia are already procuring these drugs,” Salceda said.

Merck is reportedly producing about ten million treatment courses until the end of this year and will continue producing more in 2022.