Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wants the government to explain why it is choosing to procure the molnupiravir drug for Covid-19 treatment.
"What advantage does molnupiravir have compared to other long-established medicine that has been reported to be effective (in the treatment of Covid-19) in other countries?
"For example, the Malaysian Pharmacists Society reportedly said in July that baricitinib is effective in curbing pneumonia in Category 1 and 2 of Covid-19 patients and was widely used in other countries.
"Baricitinib, together with remdesivir were said to have shown proven effectiveness in treating Covid-19 patients based on overseas research," the Bagan Datuk MP said in a statement on Facebook.
As such, Zahid said Putrajaya should justify the decision to procure molnupiravir, an oral drug produced by Merck & Co and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
"There is a need for clarification about the matter in order to convince the people about the government's decision to use molnupiravir," he added.
According to Reuters, it would be the first oral antiviral medication for Covid-19 if it gets regulatory approval and could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe Covid-19, clinical data has shown.
How much does molnupiravir cost?
The New York Times reported that the molnupiravir pills procured by the US government, enough for 1.7 million courses of treatment, came at a price of US$700 (RM2,925) per patient.
On Thursday, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the government was procuring 150,000 courses of the experimental antiviral pill but did not disclose the price tag.
Based on the price the US bought the drug for, 150,000 courses would come up to RM438.75 million.
An analysis produced by researchers at Havard University in the US and King's College Hospital in London found that the US$700 price tag for one course of treatment was 35 times higher than if a generic version of the drug was produced.