Italy will receive around 40,000 doses of Merck & Co’s (MRK.N) COVID-19 antiviral drug next week, which will add to nearly 12,000 already distributed to hospitals, the special COVID-19 commissioner said on Sunday.
“They are intended for clinical cases that risk a serious outcome of the disease,” Commissioner Francesco Figliuolo told a television program on Italy’s RAI 3 channel.
Italy will also get 200,000 courses of Pfizer’s (PFE.N) COVID-19 drug in February, Figliuolo said, adding that Rome had an option to buy additional 400,000 doses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid.
The office of the special commissioner for the COVID emergency said in November it had received a mandate from the health ministry to buy 50,000 courses of Merck’s pill and another 50,000 of Pfizer’s one.
While vaccines are the main weapons against COVID-19 for governments, there are hopes Merck and Pfizer’s experimental pills could be a game-changer in reducing the chances of dying or hospitalisation for those most at risk of severe illness.
Reporting by Francesca Landini Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky