Ignoring health warnings and Covid protocols when the country is reporting hundreds of deaths every day, Indonesians are rushing to drugstores to stock up on a "miracle cure" for Covid-19.
The "miracle drug" in question is Ivermectin, an oral treatment normally used to treat lice and other parasitic infections. The drug gained popularity after going viral as a cure for Covid-19 on social media. Moreover, it is being backed by social media influencers and leading politicians, reported AFP.
Indonesian tycoon and government minister Erick Thohir has been praising the drug and urging domestic production. He also suggested that state-owned drug giant Indofarma could produce up to four million Ivermectin tablets a month.
A former fisheries minister of Indonesia, Susi Pudjiastuti, tweeted: "I'm not a doctor, but in the midst of desperation and difficulty, I think anything is worth a try". He has 2.5 million followers.
Reza Gunawan, a self-described holistic health practitioner, is one of the social media influencers promoting the drug. He wrote that Ivermectin is one of the safe and effective keys to ending the pandemic. He further claimed that the drug is backed by doctors and scientific evidence. Gunawan has 350,000 followers on Twitter.
Co-founder of popular Indonesian media outlet Asumsi, Iman Sjafei, wrote on Twitter that five of his acquaintances recovered from Covid using the drug.
There has been a surge in demand for the drug in many countries, including Brazil, South Africa, and Lebanon. President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has pressured regulators to approve the drug for Covid treatment.
Head of a pharmaceutical sales group at a market in the capital Jakarta, Yoyon, told AFP that that sudden surge in demand pushed the price of the drug from around 175,000 to 300,000 rupiah ($12-$21) a bottle. He added that he is out of supplies at the moment.
However, the WHO, several drug regulatory bodies, and Indonesia's own drug regulator have stressed the lack of evidence.
Manufacturer of the drug Merck said there is no scientific basis for the potential therapeutic effects of the drug and warned against possible safety issues if administered inappropriately.
Indonesia is the world's fourth-most populous nation and has been struggling to control the spread of coronavirus since the pandemic began.