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Record cases managing Covid drugs

Record Covid cases and ongoing reports of sluggish management of Covid medicine stock might derail the government’s ambitious plans to list Covid-19 as endemic on July 1.

Yesterday, an all-time record of 27,560 confirmed new Covid-19 cases were registered, along with 85 more coronavirus-related fatalities.

The record tally did not include the number of cases from ATK tests which were estimated to be at an equal amount.

While the spike in Covid cases is alarming, the news of Covid medicine management is even more disturbing.

As the government has encouraged patients with mild symptoms — who comprise 70% of total cases — to take care of themselves at home, Covid medicine has become ever more important with patients increasingly demanding access to favipiravir. Such demand is expected to hit the roof after the Songkran festival.

The problem of Covid medicine was brought up last month by the non-profit Rural Doctor Society (RDS) which claimed some state hospitals in the provinces did not have enough favipiravir in stock. Such allegations were vehemently denied by the Ministry of Public Health.

The ministry — via the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) — imported favipiravir from the pharmaceutical firm and patent holder in Japan. GPO’s facility in Thailand also produces favipiravir under a special agreement.

Last month, the government reportedly spent 60 billion baht acquiring 245 million favipiravir tablets for consumption in the last quarter of this year.

The amount seems a lot except each day, patients use 2 million tablets and last month alone 75 million tablets were used.

As of now, the country has 110 million tablets in stock for next month.

The government also plans to import other anti-viral tablets.

But the RDS is not alone in raising the alarm about the supplies of Covid medicine.

Last month, medical experts such as Dr Opass Putcharoen, head of the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infection Disease Clinical Center urged the government to reduce dependence on favipiravir and import a cheaper generic version of monulpiravir from India.

Meanwhile, activist firebrand Srisuwan Janya went to the Administrative Court, asking for an injunction to halt favipiravir imports.

The activist urged the government to promote the use of green chiretta (fatalai chon), the Thai traditional herb but was told that the government will be sticking with favipiravir.

Last week, the RDS again asked the GPO to clear the air on whether it will stop making the drug locally and rely solely on imports from the pharmaceutical company in Japan.

The doctor’s group also asked the ministry to be more transparent and efficient in the supply of medicine to hospitals.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Public Health did admit to problems with deliveries because hospitals failed to update their stocks.

The Ministry of Public Health and GPO must move faster to make sure there is enough medicine in stock.

To beat Covid, the medicine that helps us get to that position must be well managed.

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