Jakarta. A top-level government team is visiting the United States for talks with pharmaceutical company Merck on the possibility of manufacturing Molnupiravir, an antiviral treatment for Covid-19, in Indonesia.
The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday in New York, Chief Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said in a video conference on Monday evening.
“I and the health minister are currently in the United States to have a meeting with Merck regarding Molnupiravir,” Luhut said.
“We want to go beyond a mere buyer. We expect them to have investment and production facility in Indonesia and we are going to meet them in New York on Wednesday.”
Merck is currently seeking emergency use authorization for Molnupiravir from the US Food and Drug Administration. The pill is being heralded as a game-changer in the global fight against the pandemic after a Phase 3 trial showed it could reduce the risk of severe symptoms and deaths by 50 percent.
“Once we can couple vaccines with effective medication, we expect to accelerate the transition of the pandemic into an endemic,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in the same news conference.
“The government has been carrying out a clinical trial of several monoclonal antibody drugs such as Mamlanivimab and Etesevimab and we are now exploring new and promising antiviral drugs including Molnupiravir from Merck, AT 527 being developed by Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticals, and Proxalutamide from China’s Kintor Pharmaceuticals,” he added.
Budi said the government is appealing to those companies for a clinical trial in Indonesia.
“That way we can quickly get knowledge if those drugs are effective against Covid-19 for our people,” he said.
Indonesia has managed to contain the spread of the virus in recent weeks, with daily new cases plummeting below the 1,000 mark and daily death toll falling under 100.
The total number of active cases stands at around 18,000 across the sprawling archipelago, down sharply from more than 500,000 active cases in the June-July period.