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Merck says deal signed with Singapore on COVID-19 antiviral pill

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Merck announced on Wednesday a supply and purchase agreement that will provide Singapore with access to its experimental oral COVID-19 antiviral drug, the latest Asian country to try to snap up supplies.

Molnupiravir is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus and would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19. Merck is seeking approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the pill.

Singapore’s health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the Merck agreement.

Australia has also bought the Merck pill, while Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia have been in talks to buy it. The Philippines hopes its trial of the pill would allow it access.

The rush to order the drug comes after data from interim clinical trials released on Friday indicated it could reduce by about 50% the likelihood of hospitalisation or death for patients at risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

Singapore reported a record 3,486 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, as it deals with its biggest outbreak so far. It has vaccinated more than 80% of its people against COVID-19. 

Photo – The Merck logo is seen outside the pharmaceutical company’s building in Darmstadt, Germany. EPA-EFE/HASAN BRATIC

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