Indonesia reviewing Merck COVID-19 pill, up to 1 million doses targeted

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia is reviewing a COVID-19 experimental antiviral pill produced by Merck & Co Inc for domestic use, its food and drug agency (BPOM) chief said on Monday, ahead of a possible purchase of up to 1 million doses next month. 

  Britain is the first country to have approved the pill, named molnupiravir, which Merck last month said halved the chance of hospitalisation or death in patients at risk for severe illness. 

  The United States, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines are among countries interested in buying molnupiravir. 

  Penny K. Lukito, BPOM chief, told a parliamentary hearing the process for registering the drug was underway. 

  Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said Indonesia plans to purchase 600,000 to 1 million doses of the Merck pill in December. 

  State-owned and private companies have been invited to apply for patent licensing to produce the pills at home, he said. 

  (Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by) 

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