Civil society raises awareness on molnupiravir overpricing in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand, 2019. © Gemma Taylor/Make Medicines Affordable

MMA’s partner in Thailand, AIDS Access Foundation, along with six other civil society organizations, have sent a letter to the country’s Ministry of Health to raise awareness on the over-pricing of molnupiravir, a drug that has reduced the risk of  hospitalization or death among non-hospitalized, at-risk adults with mild to moderate COVID-19.

The Government of Thailand was one of many countries who revealed conversations with patent holder Merck. Thailand wants to procure 200,000 treatment courses. Earlier this year, Merck agreed to supply 1.7 million courses to the U.S. government at $700 each (about 23,000 THB). Indian generics companies with voluntary licenses from Merck project that their generic versions of molnupiravir will be priced from $12-14 per treatment course (around 400-460 THB), close to the estimated price from researchers of $19.99 (660 THB), including taxes and profit.

“We searched information in the Department of Intellectual Property’s database and found that no patent has been granted and no patent applications have been filed in Thailand on molnupiravir. Therefore, there is no patent barrier for Thailand to procure generic molnupiravir. Thailand is able to import generic versions of molnupiravir from India and other countries, or even to have domestic manufacturers to produce and supply it at far lower price.”, say the letter signatories.

After the Cabinet meeting last week, the Ministry of Health was given a budget of 500 million THB to procure 50,000 treatment courses priced at 10,000 THB each. Although this price is still very far from the 660 THB that researchers have set for profitable generic mass-production, it shows government awareness of high drug prices. Instead of the 200,000 treatment courses it hoped to procure, the government has been able to secure a first batch of 50,000 treatment courses, giving time to save lives and, in parallel, to develop a generic production capacity and future procurement under more competitive prices.