Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – Strict testing is required for the slew of supposed coronavirus remedies that have garnered public attention in recent months, experts say.
For people seeking to mitigate the impact of the outbreak on their health, alternative medical practices claiming to be cures for COVID-19 have become increasingly appealing.
However, health experts have cautioned against taking these claims at face value and have called on the government to bolster the screening process for new medicines to ensure that they are safe for public consumption.
Epidemiologist Pandu Riono from the University of Indonesia's Public Health Faculty urged all stakeholders to comply with existing laws on the production of medicine to ensure public safety.
"Although we're in the middle of an emergency, we still have to keep public safety in mind," Pandu said during an online discussion held by the Indonesian Consumers' Foundation (YLKI) on Sunday.
He went on to urge the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) to play a more active role during the pandemic to prevent the market from being saturated with questionable products that could exacerbate existing health hazards.
"There are no shortcuts when it comes to [medicine]. Every stakeholder must abide by the law," he said.
At the same event, Indonesian Doctors Council (KKI) chairman Sukman Tulus Putra supported Pandu's opinion, saying that the public should err on the side of caution and remain skeptical of any claims of a COVID-19 cure as there was currently no medicine proven to cure the disease.
He said pharmaceutical companies and researchers should be objective when advertising their products and refrain from issuing false claims that could potentially harm consumers.
"Don't simply claim that you have discovered the cure for COVID-19. Going straight into production without having passed clinical trials is an ethical violation," Sukman said.
There have been numerous claims of supposed COVID-19 remedies in Indonesia since the country reported its first confirmed cases in March.
Several weeks after the country's outbreak began, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo announced that the government had prepared medicines, including three million doses of chloroquine phosphate – an antimalarial drug – which he described as "having been proven to cure COVID-19 in other countries".
However, health experts have warned the public against consuming chloroquine without proper medical supervision, citing a number of potentially debilitating side effects, such as weakened muscles and mental disorders.
Earlier this month, experts advised against using dexamethasone, an inexpensive and widely used medication, which had previously been hailed as a "major breakthrough" in COVID-19 treatment.