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Jakarta Post

Government expedites import of COVID-19 drugs

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, October 4, 2020   /   03:21 pm
Government expedites import of COVID-19 drugs A vial of the drug remdesivir is shown at a press conference on the start of a study of the Ebola drug remdesivir in severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg, northern Germany, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP/Ulrich Perrey)

In an effort to provide better treatment for COVID-19 patients and help bring down the mortality rate from the pandemic, the government has begun securing a substantial amount of therapeutics that could work against the disease.

Data from the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister show that the government has given the go-ahead to contractors to import COVID-19 therapeutics such as remdesivir, favipiravir, oseltamivir and lopinavir-ritonavir, all of which will be distributed directly to hospitals treating coronavirus patients.

The data show that by the end of 2020, the government expects to secure 670,000 vials of remdesivir from foreign sources, but expects the drug to be manufactured in the country starting in November.

Remdesivir has been the only therapeutic so far to have worked directly against the coronavirus. A five-day course of the antiviral drug sped recovery in moderately ill patients with pneumonia from COVID-19, drugmaker Gilead Sciences said in a statement.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has not given the go-ahead for remdesivir but gave Gilead emergency use authorization. The drug costs US$2,340 for a five-day course of treatment.

The government expects that by November, local drugs manufacturer PT Kimia Farma could produce 400,000 vials. In October, the government expects to secure 50,000 vials of remdesivir from PT Amarox Pharma Global, a subsidiary of India's leading generic pharmaceutical company Hetero. In September, Hetero brought in 10,000 vials.

Other than remdesivir, the government also expedited the delivery of influenza drugs oseltamivir and favipiravir, as well as antiretroviral drug lopinavir-ritonavir. For oseltamivir, the government has given authority to Kimia Farma and Amarox to procure more than 7 million capsules.

For favipiravir, the government ordered 3.7 million tablets from three companies, Beta Pharmacon, Kimia Farma and Daewoong Infion. Meanwhile, four pharmaceutical companies Amarox, Abbot, Sampharindo and Kimia Farma together will bring in 2,510,000 tablets of lopinovir-ritonavir.

Speaking in a coordination meeting with 10 governors of provinces under his supervision, Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the country was entering a critical period in the fight against COVID-19, and the procurement of the drug would be crucial to bring down the mortality rate among coronavirus patients.

"We don't have to see people dying from lack of medicine," Luhut said in the meeting late last week.

Luhut also said that to cut red tape and speed up the delivery of the drugs to patients, the government would ship the therapeutics directly to hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

Read also: What you need to know about Indonesia's vaccine development

Eight months after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the country, Indonesia continues to struggle in its effort to deal with the pandemic.

According to Health Ministry data, there were 4,007 new coronavirus infections and 83 more deaths on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections to 299,506 and fatalities to 11,055.

More than 34.71 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and 1,028,910‚Äč have died, according to a Reuters tally on Saturday.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

Director general for public health at the Health Ministry, Abdul Kadir, said he would crack down on doctors who recommended the use of non-standard therapeutics for COVID-19 patients.

Abdul Kadir said the move was also taken to help the Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS) sort out claims made by hospitals treating coronavirus patients. (mtr)