KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 – Malaysia last week received its first shipment of Paxlovid pills, a Covid-19 oral antiviral medication taken to help keep high-risk patients from developing severe illness.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today said Paxlovid will only be used to treat Covid adult patients in Category Two and Three who do not require oxygen therapy but have medical conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, that qualify them as high risk.
“Priority (for Paxlovid) will be given to the elderly and patients with multiple comorbidities and are immunocompromised,” Khairy told a press conference in Parliament today.
Covid-19 patients at Covid Assessment Centres (CACs) and public hospitals nationwide will be screened and evaluated by a medical officer using a score system to determine if they will get Paxlovid, Khairy said. Patients with a score of 3 and above will be given priority for the antiviral treatment.
As with all antivirals, Paxlovid works best early in the course of an illness. Patients eligible for the treatment are required to take Paxlovid within five days of developing symptoms. A full course constitutes three Paxlovid pills twice a day for five days.
A trial conducted by Pfizer last year showed that Paxlovid can reduce the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation and death by 89 per cent. Khairy stressed, however, that the pills are not replacements Covid vaccinations or restrictions placed to minimise the virus’ spread.
Khairy said Malaysia has ordered 104,000 courses of Paxlovid and is seeking to purchase another 100,000 courses of the drug, developed by Pfizer.
Luksanawan Thangpaibool, country manager for Pfizer Malaysia and Brunei, said the company is “honoured” to partner and work with the Malaysian government in addressing the Covid-19 public health crisis.
“Oral therapies such as protease inhibitors may help to reduce the severity of illness in patients who contract Covid-19. An oral treatment option may thus be an important tool to help address the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.
“Pfizer is committed to working toward equitable access to our oral therapy for all people, aiming to deliver antiviral therapeutics that will benefit patients in Malaysia as soon as possible,” she said.
Malaysia’s first batch of 48,000 courses is currently being distributed to 14 locations across the country, with two more deliveries scheduled for Sabah and Sarawak. The nationwide distribution involves 481 health clinic CACs and 15 government hospitals.