New COVID anti-viral pills could start arriving in Ireland in a matter of weeks.
Cabinet today agreed to spend €90m on antiviral and monoclonal antibody treatments made by Pfizer, Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK), and Merck (MSD).
Ireland is entering an EU joint procurement agreement to access the drugs.
The HSE is also trying to purchase them through bilateral agreements at national level.
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said they will soon start arriving in Ireland.
“The decision to procure … the minister has been given the green light,” he said. “It will be some weeks yet before … but that is work that is underway between the companies and the HSE an that timeline can be both clarified and accelerated if necessary.”
Trinity Professor Luke O’Neill has previously told Pat Kenny that Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment is “the big one” – noting that he expects it to work well against Omicron.
The pharmaceutical giant has said its Paxlovid treatment is 89% effective at preventing hospitalisation or death in at-risk COVID patients.
The pill is manufactured at Pfizer’s Ringaskiddy plant in County Cork and the company has pledged to produce 80 million courses of it by the end of next year.
Merck originally said it’s Molnupiravir pill reduced the risk of hospitalisation and death among high-risk patients by 50%; however, the company later revised that down to 30%.
Clinical trials found that GSK’s Sotrovimab treatment reduced the risk of hospitalisation for more than 24 hours and death by 79%.
In a statement, the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said today’s decision was “another positive step in Ireland’s ongoing response to COVID-19”.
“Ireland now has the best booster rollout campaign in the European Union and I would like to thank all of those who have come forward for their booster dose,” he said.
“Our booster programme, our continued adherence to the public health advice and today’s update on therapeutic treatments will further protect our most-at-risk loved ones from the worst impact of COVID-19 infection.”
The HSE has established two new groups to evaluate all potential COVID therapeutic treatments and to organise the roll-out.