The Ministry of Health has given the green light to produce Molnupravir for the treatment of Covid-19 in Laos.
The ministry has authorized Pharmaceutical Factory No. 3, a state enterprise, to produce the medication, Vientiane Times reports.
The factory’s Deputy Managing Director, Dr. Phoukhong Chommala, told Vientiane Times that the factory would start producing the pills in December, and would manufacture enough to treat about 1,000 Covid-19 patients, following advice from Minister of Health Dr Bounfeng Phommalaysith.
American pharmaceutical company Merck announced a licensing deal in October that would allow developing nations to access its antiviral pill for the treatment of Covid-19.
Merck reported that during a clinical trial, the medicine cut the likelihood of hospitalizations and fatalities in half among high-risk Covid patients who took it promptly after infection.
The drug is taken orally and is mass-produced in pill form. It was initially developed by scientists at Emory University to treat influenza and works by blocking the ability of the coronavirus to replicate.
An agreement was reached between Merck and the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) on voluntary licensing to facilitate affordable global access for molnupiravir. Under the agreement, the drugmakers will allow MPP to license the manufacture of molnupiravir to qualified pharmaceutical companies across the globe.
In Laos, a pilot program would see the pills administered to people aged 18-65 with mild or moderate symptoms of Covid-19. To qualify for treatment, they must not show signs of pneumonia or oxygen shortage and are to be given the pills over a period of five days, Vientiane Times reports.
The manufacture of molnupiravir in Laos and the pilot program will be under the supervision of the World Health Organisation.