Budi Sutrisno, Jakarta – Indonesian singer/songwriter and YouTuber Erdian Aji Prihartanto, popularly known as Anji, has sparked controversy after his interview with Hadi Pranoto, who claims to have "invented" a COVID-19 cure, went viral. Anji claimed that Hadi was a microbiology professor.
The interview was uploaded on Friday to Anji's YouTube channel, dunia MANJI, which has some 3.67 million subscribers, under the title "Can we return to normal? COVID-19 drug has been found!"
The video was removed on Sunday by YouTube, which cited it as inappropriate content.
"The professor invented... What do you call it? Serum?" asked Anji in the video that made the rounds on social media.
"COVID-19 antibody," Hadi answered.
"Yes, this is the medicine for COVID-19. It could cure and prevent [infection]," Hadi added.
He claimed his invention could cure patients within two to three days and might save thousands of lives.
Hadi said his invention would help the government fight the pandemic. The cure, he said, was a herbal antibody made from all natural ingredients.
He also said the COVID-19 cure had been distributed to a number of regions in Java, Bali and Kalimantan. In Jakarta, he said, the antibody had been distributed to the makeshift Wisma Atlet COVID-19 hospital in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta.
During the interview, Hadi also argued that COVID-19 infections could be detected through sweat or saliva, without having to take "mucus" from the throat, which he said might "hurt" the patients and cost a lot of money. An "effective" strep test with the help of digital technology, he added, could cost just Rp 10,000 (68 US cents) to Rp 20,000.
The interview has angered many, including Anji's fellow musicians, celebrities and doctors, with some condemning Anji for making and publishing the "dangerous" content. The hashtag #Anji has been trending on Twitter.
"What Anji has done is outrageous and may endanger many people, [...] especially those who tend to just believe influencers," general surgeon Aris Ramdhani tweeted on his account, @arisrmd, on Sunday.
Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) deputy chairman Adib Khumaidi said that Hadi was not part of the doctor or microbiologist communities, and urged authorities to launch an investigation into the alleged public deception.
"If [Hadi's COVID-19 cure] cannot be proven scientifically, the problem is no longer about [his background], but the patients' safety," Adib said.
The government's COVID-19 spokesman, Wiku Adisasmito, has spoken up, asking the public not to trust information that was not supported by health authorities.
"Please check whether products have been registered with BPOM [Indonesian Food and Drug Monitoring Agency] or the Health Ministry. If the herbal concoctions are still in the research stage and there is no scientific evidence of their safety and effectiveness, they should not be consumed by the public," Wiku said, as quoted by tribunnews.com.
Wisma Atlet hospital operational coordinator Col. Stefanus Doni denied Hadi's claim that his COVID-19 cure has been given to the hospital.
The National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) COVID-19 research consortium said in a statement on Monday that Hadi was not a researcher in the immunomodulatory herbal development team formed by the agency.
The BRIN also said it had never provided support for clinical trials of the herbal medicine produced by Bio Nuswa, which Hadi claimed had been given to patients at the Wisma Atlet hospital.
"Every clinical trial must obtain approval from the BPOM and ethical clearance by the ethics commission," the agency said.
After waves of criticism, Anji spoke out on Monday, blaming the public for making the video go viral.
"I am said to have given a platform to a person who is not credible. My video was shared everywhere and was watched by many people and started trending. [...] Unconsciously, people also give a platform to things they don't like," he posted in an Instagram story.