Covid-19: Malaysia among nations excluded from global Remdesivir deal, says Dr Noor Hisham

The Health Ministry revealed that Malaysia has been excluded from a voluntary licencing deal to receive Remdesivir, the drug now undergoing clinical trials as a possible Covid-19 treatment. — Ulrich Perrey/Pool pic via Reuters
The Health Ministry revealed that Malaysia has been excluded from a voluntary licencing deal to receive Remdesivir, the drug now undergoing clinical trials as a possible Covid-19 treatment. — Ulrich Perrey/Pool pic via Reuters

PUTRAJAYA, May 21 — Malaysia has been excluded from a voluntary licencing deal to receive Remdesivir, the drug now undergoing clinical trials as a possible Covid-19 treatment, the Ministry of Health revealed today.

Malaysia was among the countries excluded from the non-exclusive voluntary licencing agreement to manufacture and distribute Remdesivir to 127 nations, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said during the ministry’s daily Covid-19 briefing here.

“Our country has always been excluded from the voluntary licence,” he said.

“Because we are being excluded from the voluntary licence despite Malaysia trying to come under (the) patent pool but we have been neglected in a way.”

The firm behind Remdesivir, Gilead Sciences, recently signed an agreement with five companies in India and Pakistan to manufacture a generic version of the antiviral drug.

While the drug has yet to be tested for safety, the US Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorisation for Remdesivir in hospitals for coronavirus after preliminary trial results indicated that the medicine could successfully treat serious Covid-19 cases, online magazine Codeblue reported yesterday citing a STAT report.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also included Remdesivir in its ongoing clinical trials.

To date, 93 Malaysian nationals infected by Covid-19 have been enrolled in the “Solidarity” trials, an international effort that seeks to test the best available treatment for the disease.

Dr Noor Hisham said 12 patients are currently in Remdesivir therapy.

“Now we have access to the treatment but the question is if the drug is effective, we have to look at other means to obtain it,” he said.

According to Gilead, the 127 nations that will receive generic Remdesivir mainly consist of low-income and lower-middle income countries, although several upper-middle- and high-income countries with highly limited access have also been included.

The five generic companies allowed to manufacture Remdesivir can set their own prices without having to pay royalties, the American drug maker said.

The agreement will end only after the novel coronavirus is no longer declared a public health emergency by the WHO, or until another medicine or vaccine is approved to treat or prevent Covid-19, Codeblue reported.

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