Philippines in rush with other countries to buy experimental COVID-19 pills

December 31, 2021 - 10:24 AM
An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP. (Merck & Co Inc/Handout via Reuters)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week authorised Merck’s antiviral COVID-19 pill for high-risk adult patients, a day after giving a broadergo-ahead to a similar but more effective treatment from Pfizer.

In the last week, Japan and India have also recommended approval of Merck’s experimental pill – which has already been approved in Britain, Denmark and the Philippines, among others while South Korea on Monday authorized Pfizer’s treatment for emergency use.

Merck has signed deals to sell about nine million courses of its treatment to governments around the world, but on Dec. 22France became the first country to publicly say it had cancelled its order following disappointing trial data. It hopes instead to receive Pfizer’s drug before the end of January.

In the European Union, both treatments are under review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), though the regulator has said they can be used in adults ahead of any wider recommendation.

The following tables list countries that have expressed interest in Merck or Pfizer pills, sorted alphabetically:

Merck pill
Australia300,000 doses
Belgium10,000 doses
Canada500,000 courses
Indonesia600,000 – 1 million dosesDecember 2021
Italy50,000 courses
Japan1.6 million courses$1.2 billion
Malaysia150,000 courses
Philippines300,000 coursesP100-150 ($1.97-$2.96) per pillNovember 2021
South Korea200,000 courses
Switzerland8,640 dosesJanuary 2022 “at the latest”
Thailand200,000 courses
UK2.23 million coursesEarly 2022
United States3.1 million courses$700 per course
Pfizer pill
Australia500,000 courses
Canada1 million doses
Israel100,000 courses
Italy50,000 courses
South Korea70,000 courses
UK2.75 million coursesEarly 2022
United States10 million courses$530 per courseBy end-2021


— Reporting by Ina Kreutz, Agnieszka Gosciak and Federica Urso;Editing by Milla Nissi and Barbara Lewis