Favipiravir in good supply, ministry says

The Public Health Ministry said on Tuesday there are sufficient favipiravir pills in stock and it will procure more anti-viral tablets ahead of the Songkran festival next month, after the Rural Doctor Society (RDS) complained about a shortage of anti-Covid drugs.

Sirikul Matevelungsun, deputy managing director of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO), said on Tuesday 110 million favipiravir pills were kept in stock. Of them, 80 million were and are being delivered to hospitals that need them for Covid-19 patients.

The GPO had planned to distribute the remaining 30 million pills at the start of Songkran in the middle of next month.

However, the Public Health Ministry has anticipated a surge in demand for anti-viral pills after Songkran when daily caseloads are predicted to rise. The ministry estimates 75 million pills, both favipiravir and molnupiravir, will be needed after the festival.

Dr Sirikul said the GPO will deliver 30 million favipiravir pills to hospitals in the middle of next month and another 20 million pills towards the end of that month. These are pills both locally produced and imported and they should be enough, she said.

She added the GPO was considering whether to import another 25 million molnupiravir pills. The planned purchase is pending price negotiations with manufacturers in China and India.

If the price of the pills is high, fewer will be bought. The decision on how many will be imported will be reached soon. If and when the purchase deal is sealed, the first batch of pills could arrive in Thailand within two weeks of the purchase being made, she said.

Dr Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn, deputy permanent secretary for public health, has insisted that anti-viral pill amounts are sufficient, rebutting the complaint about a shortage by the RDS on Monday.

As of Monday, there were 22.8 million favipiravir pills stocked in hospitals delivering Covid-19 treatments. On average, the hospitals dispense a combined two million pills a day, meaning stocks should last about 10 days.

However, pills from the GPO will keep replenishing stocks. The hospitals are connected through a central stock-checking system which enables the ministry to keep track of how many pills each hospital has left or where a resupply is necessary.

The ministry is making sure each hospital has at least 10 days’ worth of pills.

A recent surge in daily infections in many areas has pushed up hospitalisations, which in turn has driven up demand for anti-viral pills. But hospitals failed to update their stock-checking system so the GPO was unaware supplies were low and did not distribute more pills.