Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said his party would work closely with the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM) and various vertical hospitals to conduct reviews and trials of all potential new COVID-19 drugs.
He explained review This is not only done for drugs that are manoclonal antibodies, but also antiviral drugs, such as molnupiravir made by a pharmaceutical company from the United States, Merck & Co.
“But it could also be new anti-viral drugs like the one currently being discussed, Molnupiravir from Merck. So we have approached the manufacturers of these drugs,” said Budi in a press teleconference in Jakarta, Monday (4/10).
In addition, the Ministry of Health, said Budi, also plans to conduct clinical trials of these drugs in the near future.
“We have also planned to start clinical trials and it is hoped that by the end of this year we will be able to find out which drugs are suitable for people’s conditions,” he explained.
Meanwhile, an epidemiologist at Australia’s Griffith University, Dicky Budiman, said that based on the research results to date, the drug claimed to be an anti-viral, namely Merck’s molnupiravir, is promising because it provides significant and effective results against the COVID-19 virus. including to fight the delta variant.
“This is promising even though it has not yet received approval from the FDA, but this is Merck releasing the results of its research and from the data I have observed it is quite promising because it has been proven that two things are expected to prevent severity, and are also proven to prevent death. Of the sample of volunteers who received this drug, there were seven percent less who were infected, admitted to the hospital but not seriously and no one died,” he told Mouab.
In addition, with its capsule form, this drug will be quite easy to consume. But unfortunately for now the price is still quite expensive, which is around US $ 700 or about 10 million rupiah. Even so, according to him, this is still better than the previous COVID-19 drug, namely remdesivir in the form of an infusion which is not very effective in preventing severity and death.
With more and more drug manufacturers conducting research to find anti-COVID-19 drugs, he predicts that next year there will be anti-coronavirus drugs that are proven to be effective against COVID-19 so that fewer COVID-19 patients will be treated in the ICU and on ventilators. .
“And the hope is mainly to wait for drugs that can prevent long COVID, because now what experts are paying attention to is the potential for this COVID-19 to be long COVID, where one third of the recovered cases have long COVID and 70 percent of the third have organ damage. Hopefully with a combination of vaccines, even when infected after being vaccinated or not being vaccinated but being treated, hopefully this can prevent it,” he said.
He further said that if Merck’s drug molnupiravir had been approved by the FDA, the government would have to be able to meet the treatment needs of groups who are at high risk and have a high risk of death; one for the elderly.
“However, we have to be patient because the phase 3 clinical trial research has only been completed in November. So that in the first quarter of next year, my prediction is that there will be this anti-viral and the good thing is that I hope that this anti-viral besides (for) treatment but it can also prevent (being infected with COVID-19), this is extraordinary, we really hope, “he said.
Focus on Expanding Vaccination Coverage
Unlike Dicky, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia Pandu Riono said that the anti-virus drug made by Merck could not be used in Indonesia. In a study conducted by Merck, it was stated that the drug was effective in reducing mortality and severity if given the first five days to COVID-19 patients after infection. That way, said Pandu, giving this drug is difficult to apply in the country.
“Sometimes the infected are mostly late (detected) a few days later, they are found out, it’s no longer useful. And it’s expensive, so it’s useless. What do we do with medicine, especially with such requirements. Learning from the experience of bird flu, what is called tummy flu is not useful because of what? Because it can only be effective in the first week after infection, it is mostly too late. So it doesn’t help,” he told Mouab.
Vaccination remains the main thing
Pandu further emphasized that vaccination is far more beneficial than looking for anti-viral drugs, because it has been proven to prevent the severity and death of exposure to COVID-19.
“I have to remind Pak Budi and his staff at the Ministry of Health, forget about medicine, because we want to control the pandemic, focus on being vaccinated. Vaccination is before being infected, and it has a long-term impact to protect people from going to the hospital, if the medicine requires getting sick first. So, in my opinion, the Ministry of Health should not be tempted to buy or procure the drug. Seeing the public interest, because the Ministry of Health must think about the public interest. With medicine, vaccination is still beneficial with vaccination,” he concluded.
Previously, Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics planned to seek US emergency use authorization for the drug as soon as possible. The company will also make regulatory applications globally.
The pill molnupiravir, designed to insert errors into the virus’ genetic code, will be the first oral antiviral drug for COVID-19. Current treatment options, including Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral remdesivir and the generic steroid dexamethasone, are only given after the patient has been hospitalized. [gi/em]