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Indonesia in talks to buy Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill: Minister

Indonesia in talks to buy Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill: Minister

An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck and obtained by Reuters on May 17, 2021. (File photo: Reuters/Merck handout)

JAKARTA: Indonesia is "finalising" a deal with Merck & Co to procure its experimental antiviral pills, named molnupiravir, to treat COVID-19 ailments, its health minister said on Monday (Oct 25).

Results from a large clinical trial this month showed that the pill, made with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, cut hospitalisations and deaths by 50 per cent. Merck asked for emergency use clearance from the United States earlier this month.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a news conference after a visit to the company in the US that the deal is being finalised so that the first shipment of molnupiravir may arrive at the end of the year.

"So that we have enough stock to withstand a potential next wave," he said, adding that Indonesia and Merck are in talks to build a production plant in Indonesia to produce raw materials.

Budi did not say how many pills are being procured. Merck did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Merck has signed supply deals for the drug with Indonesia's neighbours Malaysia and Singapore, as well as Britain.

Indonesia was Asia's COVID-19 epicentre in July, with the outbreak largely fuelled by the virulent Delta variant, although cases and deaths have largely plummeted recently.

The government said on Monday that it is anticipating a potential infection spike brought by the upcoming Christmas holidays.

Source: Reuters/kg

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