The Covid-19 pill for self-treatment against serious symptoms could become available as soon as this month in Belgium, with orders for 20,000 pills already made.
The medicine, which is intended for high-risk patients, is an additional line of protection (but only as a last resort) when the person has already been infected and become ill, explains Dirk Ramaekers, head of the Taskforce Covid-Therapeutics.
“This is no miracle cure and certainly no alternative to vaccination,” Ramaekers told Het Belang van Limburg. He added that so far, trials have shown these drugs work and can keep people out of the hospital, but that more study is needed to fully understand their effectiveness.
Belgium finalised one deal to buy 10,000 of Merck’s Molnupiravir capsules on Monday, and the final negotiations have started for Belgium to buy 10,000 of the Paxlovid pills produced by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which can reportedly reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death from a coronavirus infection by 89%.
The pills, which can be prescribed by general practitioners, have to either be taken four (for Molnupiravir) or three (for the Pfizer pill) times a day over the course of five days as part of the full treatment.
Both pills are still being reviewed by the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA), but they have already been authorised for emergency use. However, the EMA is reviewing new data which showed that the antiviral pill decreased the risk of hospitalisation by only 30% rather than 50%.
Ramaekers did not disclose information about the price paid by Belgium for both orders, as part of the contract between the companies and the government.
Prices cited by Reuters indicated the Pfizer pills were sold to the United States for $530 per course (some €468), while Merck sold its capsules for around $700 per course (around €618). According to one report, this is 40 times the cost of producing the pills.
However, Pfizer in November signed a voluntary licensing agreement with the United Nation’s Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) that will ensure low-cost global access to its anti-Covid pills, to help combat the pandemic more effectively in developing nations, where the access to the coronavirus vaccine is much lower than in developed countries.