Molnupiravir won’t cost $700 in PH; to be accessible to public—-pharma exec

Published October 19, 2021, 7:18 PM

by Analou de Vera

Medicines (File Photo)

The price of the new antiviral drug molnupiravir, a potential treatment for COVID-19, will not be that expensive and will be accessible to the people, a local official of MSD Pharmaceuticals said.

MSD Philippines President and Managing Director Dr. Beaver Tamesis made the statement as there were reports that it would cost about $700 per course of treatment.

“I have great confidence, there is no way we will be at $700…I’m sure that’s not the price we will be at here. I don’t know what the final price will be, but for now I’m pretty sure it won’t be $700,” said Tamesis in a forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Monday, Oct. 18.

“We do know, these will be a treatment course for five days…We want to be able to give the world access,” he added.

Tamesis said that MSD (also known as Merck), who is developing molnupiravir for the treatment of COVID-19, signed “voluntary licensing agreements” with at least seven Indian generic manufacturers, which is a way to make molnupiravir more accessible and affordable.

“That’s the whole point of doing voluntary licensing…The fact that we have all seven companies potentially who may all come in here…if they will be competing in the marketplace, hopefully the market forces now drive the price to a point where it is actually most affordable for our citizenry,” said Tamesis.

Meanwhile, some local companies already expressed their intention to manufacture the said antiviral drug in the Philippines.

“That is still something subject for negotiation. I know there have been companies that have reached out, we have sent them to our business developing team—local companies that have reached out….We are seriously in talks about this, what’s the best way forward,” said Tamesis.

“We have deep discussion with this…I would personally feel that it’s a good thing to have a local manufacturing…definitely this is under discussion,” he added.

In a statement last Oct. 1, MSD said that molnupiravir “reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50 percent” among COVID-19 patients who participated in their clinical trials.

“With these compelling results, we are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic,” said Merck Chief Executive Officer and President Robert Davis.

The MSD has already submitted an Emergency Use Authorization application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for molnupiravir.

Although molnupiravir is a potential treatment for COVID-19, Tamesis emphasized the importance of vaccination.

“It has to be complementary to vaccines. Vaccines will always be better because prevention is better than cure,” said Tamesis.

“We all have heard the benefits of vaccination—-reducing the complication, severity….so it is really important that vaccines must be the top priority. This particular drug just completes the spectrum of treatment available to us,” he added.