BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN –  Brunei received its first delivery of molnupiravir on Thursday night, a new drug developed to treat patients with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said the shipment arrived from Singapore containing 5,040 packs, out of a total of 25,000 packs ordered from the pharmaceutical company, Merck.

MoH said patients categorised as high risk — such as the elderly and those with immunodeficiencies or chronic disease — will be given priority for treatment to reduce their risk of developing severe symptoms.

The oral pill is not suitable for some groups of patients, including children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Molnupiravir works by suppressing the replication of the coronavirus and is ideally given to patients within five days from the onset of symptoms. The drug needs to be taken for five days to complete a course.

Use of molnupiravir has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation by 65 percent, according to a new study from Indian researchers.

The anti-viral drug has already been granted emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Authority as well as the Brunei Darussalam Medicines Control Authority.

MoH added that each patient must undergo a doctor’s evaluation to ensure their suitability to take the drug.

Previously, the ministry said it is also looking to procure Pfizer’s antiviral treatment called paxlovid.