A medical expert on Thursday urged the government to switch from favipiravir to molnupiravir, a more effective antiviral medication for COVID-19 treatment that is needed especially as Thailand now plans to declare COVID-19 endemic.
With its proven higher efficacy and cheaper price, molnupiravir is the ideal choice for Thailand when it comes to selecting a main oral treatment for COVID-19 patients who need it, said Asst Prof Dr Opass Putcharoen, head of the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Clinical Centre.
He was referring to the price of molnupiravir produced in India, which according to him now costs just 600-700 baht per treatment course.
By comparison, the version of molnupiravir produced by Merck & Co costs about 50,000 baht, said Asst Prof Dr Putcharoen.
The Public Health Ministry said previously a treatment course using favipiravir cost about 1,000 baht, while one using molnupiravir cost approximately 10,000 baht.
Although Thailand has been relying mainly on favipiravir, there has not been any clear-cut research findings to prove the drug’s efficacy in a real-world setting, while a recent study found molnupiravir is 30% effective in preventing severe disease, Asst Prof Dr Putcharoen said.
Thailand should therefore consider importing molnupiravir from India instead, he added.
More importantly, the government should adjust its COVID-19 drugs distribution policy to allow every hospital to have in their stock enough molnupiravir to promptly prescribe it to COVID-19 patients, he noted.
Having quality medications in place to treat Covid-19 is a requirement for announcing it as an endemic disease, he said.
Despite being fully vaccinated, certain types of patients, including those on immunosuppressive drugs, still have a high risk of developing severe disease when infected with COVID-19 and need effective COVID-19 treatments, the Thai Red Cross expert noted.
And even though the number of new infections is projected to begin declining about two to three weeks after the coming Songkran festival in mid-April, close surveillance on the spread of the coronavirus will still be needed afterwards, he said.
On Tuesday, the cabinet approved a proposal to change from a plan to procure 50,000 doses of molnupiravir to 17 million pills of favipiravir and 5,166 vials of remdesivir.