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1st batch of Merck's COVID-19 pills reach Taiwan

2022-01-25
Focus Taiwan
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An EVA Air flight carrying the oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment molnupiravir arrives in Taiwan Monday morning. Photo courtesy of a private contributor
An EVA Air flight carrying the oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment molnupiravir arrives in Taiwan Monday morning. Photo courtesy of a private contributor

Taipei, Jan. 24 (CNA) The first batch of 2,016 courses of the oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment molnupiravir arrived in Taiwan Monday morning.

The delivery of the antiviral pills, made by U.S. drugmaker Merck, was originally scheduled to be completed in phases after the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins on Jan. 29 and runs through Feb. 6.

However, as a result of the intensive efforts of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), the first batch arrived from the United States earlier than expected.

The drugs arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 5:18 a.m. on EVA Air Flight BR641 from Chicago.

After disinfection operations were completed, the pills were transported to a storage facility before undergoing customs clearance and transportation procedures.

Molnupiravir is suitable to be administered as soon as possible following a positive COVID-19 test and within five days of the onset of symptoms, CECC official Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said earlier this month.

It is recommended for use in adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who have no other clinically suitable treatment options and have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, Chang added.

It is important for patients receiving the drug to complete the full 5-day treatment course and continue isolation to maximize viral clearance and minimize transmission of the virus, according to Chang.

While 80 percent of all COVID-19 cases have mild symptoms, around 9 percent of those with mild symptoms can become seriously ill or die, according to international research cited by the CECC.

The major risk factors for developing severe illness include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and cancer, according to the CECC.

Other factors include being immunocompromised or having inhibited immunity due to certain treatments, being age 60 or over and pregnancy.

In Taiwan, mild to moderate cases account for 84 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a case-fatality rate of 4.6 percent, according to data compiled by the CECC as of Monday.

Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Jan. 11 announced that it had granted emergency use authorization for molnupiravir. The CECC purchased a total of 10,000 courses, the rest of which is expected to arrive in more batches after the Lunar New Year holiday.

On Jan. 13, the FDA issued a special import permit for molnupiravir in accordance with relevant regulations.

According to the CECC, 5,040 courses of molnupiravir will be distributed in batches to designated hospitals responsible for the care of COVID-19 patients in government quarantine facilities and enhanced quarantine hotels.

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