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Thailand deemed too wealthy to produce generic Molnupiravir

Neill Fronde



PHOTO: Thailand is not eligible for generic Molnupiravir pills. (via Merck)

Thailand has been deemed to be too rich to produce a generic version of the anti-viral drug Molnupiravir that reduces the negative effects of Covid-19 infections. Merck, the producer of the drug, had made an agreement to license the virus-fighting drug to production companies in poor countries to help in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the World Bank has classified Thailand as an upper-middle-income economy, wealthier than other neighbouring members of ASEAN like Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam. As such, they do not qualify for the program to save money and produce Molnupiravir cheaply to treat Covid-19 patients domestically.

Molnupiravir has been shown to help patients with Covid-19 infections, reducing the severity of symptoms, lowering the rate of hospitalisation and, most importantly, preventing many Covid-19 deaths.

A non-profit endorsed by United Nations called the Medicine Patent Pool struck a deal with Merck to function as a middleman in licensing the patent to companies in poor countries to produce cheap generics to help their citizens. Interest has been expressed by 50 manufacturers in countries that are considered low to middle income, eager to create generics of Molnupiravir.

But Thailand will have to purchase the Covid-19 drug from Merck, a massive American pharmaceutical company instead of being able to make cheaper knockoffs. The Phillippines has also ordered Molnupiravir directly from Merck.

The Harvard School of Public Health reported that a full treatment of Molnupiravir costs less than US $18 to manufacture, about 600 baht. The full treatment for one person lasts for 5 days and totals 40 pills, each pill 200 milligrammes, with a patient taking 4 pills twice a day.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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