KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — Malaysia has signed a letter of undertaking to purchase the antiviral drug Molnupiravir, developed by Merck Sharp & Dohme, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.

Through the agreement, the government agreed to procure 150,000 complete treatment packages (patient courses) to treat Covid-19 patients.

“This decision was made in preparation for us to begin the transition to the endemic phase of living with the Covid-19 virus by adding new innovative treatment options as a ‘weapon’ to fight Covid-19, in addition to the use of vaccines and other public health measures.

“A study conducted by Merck Sharp & Dohme found that Molnupiravir reduced ward admission rate by 50 per cent and was also effective on more potent variants of the Covid-19 virus such as gamma, delta and mu. However, I would like to state here that even though this Molnupiravir drug is effective, it does not mean that the vaccine is no longer needed because the function of the vaccine is to reduce infection and prevent from getting more severe infection,” Khairy said in a statement today.

He stressed that Molnupiravir, however, cannot prevent infection and it is only beneficial for those who are already infected with Covid-19.

He said that “both methods” are needed to lower the Covid-19 disease burden, leading to a greater impact in efforts to prevent and control the transmission of virus.

“In the meantime, the Ministry of Health (MoH) will continue to monitor the development of drugs related to the treatment of Covid-19 patients around the world, to ensure that our country is not left behind in getting the best treatment for the people of Malaysia,” he added.