KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 – Pfizer’s Covid-19 treatment pill Paxlovid will be used at private hospitals in Malaysia to protect patients from severe illness caused by Covid-19.
This comes nearly two months after Paxlovid was first introduced for Covid-19 treatment at public health facilities on April 15. Paxlovid is used to treat Covid adult patients in Categories Two and Three who do not require oxygen therapy but have medical conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, that qualify them as high risk.
Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Dr Kuljit Singh, in a statement today, said the medication will be supplied free to private hospitals based on the needs of the Ministry of Health (MOH).
“Private specialists will follow the guidelines given by the MOH on the prescription of these medications. There will be no charge on the antivirals except for consultation fees and other hospital charges.
“We are able to treat Covid more effectively and patients seeking treatment for Covid in private hospitals will have better recovery and lessen the probability of getting into Stages Four and Five,” Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Dr Kuljit Singh said in a statement today.
A full course constitutes three Paxlovid pills twice a day for five days. Patients eligible for the treatment are required to take Paxlovid within five days of developing symptoms.
A trial conducted by Pfizer last year showed that Paxlovid can reduce the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation and death by 89 per cent. Public health officials however, stressed that the pills are not replacements for Covid vaccinations.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in a statement earlier today, announced the expansion of Paxlovid use in private hospitals with the intent of making Covid treatment more accessible to the public, especially high-risk groups such as the elderly, those with comorbidities, and those who are unvaccinated.
As of June 5, 2022, a total of 1,364 patients have received Paxlovid treatment and have recovered fully with no severe side effects reported. “This treatment has proven to be safe and effective and can reduce the severe effects of infection and mortality of Covid-19 patients,” Khairy said.
Khairy also announced that the monoclonal antibodies tixagevimab and cilgavimab (Evusheld), produced by AstraZeneca, will soon be used to prevent Covid-19 in individuals who may not respond well to vaccination.
The National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) conditionally approved AstraZeneca’s antibody cocktail on May 12 in those aged 12 years and older weighing at least 40kg who may not obtain a sufficient immune response to Covid-19 vaccination, or who are not recommended for inoculation.
Evusheld is meant to prevent Covid-19 infection in individuals before potential exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. The NPRA approved Evusheld dosage of 100mg/ml each for tixagevimab and cilgavimab.
Khairy said Evusheld will only be made available at government hospitals for now and it will be used as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people who have not been infected with Covid-19 but are at high risk of becoming infected.
The assessment of the patient’s eligibility to receive this antibody drug will be done by the treating physician and the patient selection criteria are as follows:
- Aged 12 years and above;
- Weighing more than 40kg; and
- Belong in the moderate to severe immunocompromised groups (this takes into account the immune response of this group to Covid-19 vaccination which is unlikely to reach a satisfactory level of immunity; or
- Individuals who are unable to take the vaccine completely due to medical reasons or have a history of severe reactions to the Covid-19 vaccine
The method of administration of antibodies is through two separate intramuscular injections of two types of drugs, namely tixagevimab and cilgavimab, given consecutively.
For immunocompromised patients who are vaccinated against Covid-19, Evusheld should be given at least two weeks after vaccination.