Expert: Doctors will be equipped with multiple new medicines in six months

Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) office.
Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) office. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia wants to participate in a joint procurement of coronavirus medications for age groups, but the approval of the drugs will still take the European Medicines Agency time, which is why vaccinations are still key in defeating the coronavirus, said Health Insurance Fund medication and medical equipment manager Erki Laidmäe.

Britain became the first country in the world to approve the new coronavirus medication by Merck Sharp Dohme (MSD). Pharmaceutical company Pfizer has also announced they have created a coronavirus medication. Has Estonia signed a contract for the acquisition of such drugs?

Yes, there will be multiple drugs meant for treatment before the hospital to hit the markets soon. So far, we have purchased medicines, which can be used in hospitals, on patients who have already reached a state of hospitalization. But now, there will be medication for the primary level.

Speaking about the MSD medication, we are not planning on signing a pre-purchase agreement, but we are planning on joining a joint European Commission procurement to get the medication. We have expressed our interest to the European Commission and have also announced the initial amounts we are interested in. So we are certainly interested in acquiring the medications.

We must understand that this drug is meant for patients in risk groups and not all. The most important thing is that no one is left with a false impression of vaccinations no longer being necessary. Vaccinations are still the most effective measure to avoid illness. But if the illness is diagnosed and the person is in a risk group, whether it be a weakened immune system, overweight or other serious co-morbidities, it would be reasonable to give them this drug.

What are the amounts we are speaking of?

It is extremely difficult to predict amounts. We have ordered treatments for some 10,000 patients.

How much could one dose of the new coronavirus medication cost?

The price will become clear when we reach the tender. As much as we know from our sources, it could be in the range of €600 per patient.

How will these drugs be distributed?

It is important to start treatment early for viruses, a few days after diagnosis. We are already making plans to make this available for patients. We are currently working on having family physicians being able to prescribe it with a standard digital prescription so the patient or someone close to them can go get the medication at the pharmacy.

What is still to be expected in terms of coronavirus medication?

Pfizer has an oral medication coming out, but there is not much information on that at the moment. Some medicines do exist, which are monoclonal antibodies. These are used for basically the same reason, meaning treatment before hospitalization. These are commonly injected medications.

We think doctors will be equipped with four or five new medicines in the next six months.

How long do you estimate the European Medicines Agency will take to approve the Merck medicine?

I do not dare estimate this. We can only hope it happens in the coming months, but we should be careful and not rush anything.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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