JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia will continue to prescribe two anti-malaria drugs for coronavirus patients but monitor their use closely, a spokesman for Indonesia COVID-19 taskforce said on Thursday, after some European nations banned the drug over safety concerns.
The world’s fourth-most populous nation has since late March recommended that chloroquine and its derivative, hydroxychloroquine, be widely administered, including to coronavirus patients with moderate to severe symptoms, according to Food and Drug Monitoring Agency guidelines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week it was temporarily halting its global Solidarity trial, which was trialling hydroxychloroquine in more than 30 countries, including Indonesia.
In an advisory sent by the WHO to Indonesia’s health ministry and pulmonologists’ association, which was reviewed by Reuters, the global health body said use of the drugs should be suspended “for treating any COVID-19 patients outside the trial”.
Wiku Adismasmito, from Indonesia’s COVID-19 national taskforce, said Indonesia would comply with the advice in relation to the trial, but continue general use under strict monitoring.
“According to the Ministry of Health, patient care guidelines published by the five medical professions are continuously assessing the usage of this drug, with smaller doses and shorter duration of administration,” he said.
Indonesia, he said, would wait for further advice from the WHO in regard to the safety of the drugs, expected in mid-June.
After some initial optimism around the unproven drugs, Indonesia ramped up local production of the antimalarials.
U.S. President Donald Trump was a particularly strong supporter of hydroxychloroquine, describing it as a “game changer”. He later announced he was taking it to prevent infection.
In recent months clinical trials in France, Brazil and the United States have indicated the drugs carry an increased risk of heart rhythm disturbances and death.
Governments in France, Belgium and Italy moved to ban the drugs on Wednesday, after a second global clinical trial led by the University of Oxford, set to involve 40,000 healthcare workers, was also put on hold.
(Reporting by Kate Lamb in Sydney; Editing by Nick Macfie)