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COVID-19 drug now free of charge

BANGKOK: The anti-viral drug molnupiravir has been included in the list of essential medications covered by the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (Ucep) Plus scheme, according to deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul.

By Bangkok Post

Friday 10 March 2023, 09:00AM

Public Health Ministry staff check bottles of the antiviral drug molnupiravir at a warehouse in Samut Prakan in March last year. Photo: Somchai Poomlard

Public Health Ministry staff check bottles of the antiviral drug molnupiravir at a warehouse in Samut Prakan in March last year. Photo: Somchai Poomlard

The drug’s inclusion means COVID-19 patients can now get molnupiravir pills for free, reports the Bangkok Post. Prior to its inclusion, which was approved by the cabinet on Tuesday (Mar 7), patients had to pay B15 for a 200-milligramme dose of the anti-viral medication.

It is the second anti-viral drug for COVID-19 treatment to be offered for free, after favipiravir was included in the Ucep Plus programme.

The National Institute of Emergency Medicine (Niem) is responsible for screening COVID-19 patients before they receive the anti-viral medication through the Ucep Plus scheme.

Meahwhile, NNT reports that The Ministry of Public Health has revealed that Thailand spent a total of B444 billion on public health during the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Mar 5, the ministry disclosed the cost of prevention, treatment, and vaccination for all citizens in the kingdom from 2020-2022.

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According to the report, the cost of testing and treating people for COVID-19 accounted for over half the total spending at B260bn. Meanwhile, vaccine procurement and distribution expenses were estimated at B78bn, based on an internal study. In addition, the government spent B57.5bn in compensation to victims and as incentives to medical personnel during the pandemic.

From 2020 to 2022, the government covered the cost of treatment and vaccinations for all citizens, with the majority of the funding coming from the annual budget. In addition, the B1.5 trillion was borrowed to stimulate the economy and partially cover the cost of emergency public health services.

Dr Rungrueng Kitphati, chairman of the ministry’s intelligence unit, said the ministry’s assessment found that the financial status of hospitals under the jurisdiction of the ministry improved when compared to pre-pandemic performance. This suggests that the funds allocated to supporting hospitals and related agencies were overall sufficient in helping them cope with COVID patients.

Despite the government’s efforts to build a different decision-making framework for healthcare financing during the pandemic, the director highlighted that the norms and procedures for fund utilization remain largely unchanged. As a result, the lack of differentiation impacted the speed and effectiveness of the pandemic response.

Dr Rungrueng added that these assessments would help the government implement changes to effectively address similar circumstances going forward.

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