The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has explained why Nigeria will not resort to herbal drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
This is following the warning from the World Bank Organisation (WHO), for governments to clinically test any herbal drug before sanctioning it.
The Minister spoke on Thursday at the daily press briefing of the Presidential Task force on COVID-19 in Abuja.
Ehanire said several traditional medicines that were being suggested by some herbal practitioners in the country as cures for COVID-19 had not been tested and might be toxic.
He said: “On the cure of COVID-19, the traditional medicines that have been given to us or rather that people said they had, we have referred to them to Traditional Medicine Complementary Department of the Federal Ministry of Health and to the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development to evaluate.
“But some of them, who have written to me that they have medicines, have asked me to give them 10 patients so that they can cure them.
“They say: ‘Give me 10, give me one and I will cure them, and you will see that it works.’
“But we don’t do it like that in medicine.
“We don’t have human guinea pigs.
“Anybody who knows that he or she has a cure must prove to me that it was tried and it worked.
“Many of the cures are not tested on anyone at all.
“Of course, I am not giving them anyone to go and carry out their tests.
“That is why they have to go through the research cycle to make sure that their medicines are not toxic and you can also check the efficacy.
“So, those are things that will be tested.
“Any kind of medicine can be toxic.
“The toxicity can be checked and you can also check the efficacy.
“And as you know, you have to try it on animals such as rats and mouse, before it is certified.”
WHO calls for caution over uss of herbal medicine
The World Health Organization on Thursday advised governments to clinically test a herbal drink touted by Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina as a remedy against coronavirus.
The Covid-Organics infusion is derived from artemisia — a plant with proven anti-malarial properties — and other indigenous herbs.
Rajoelina hopes to distribute the infusion across West Africa and beyond, claiming it cures COVID-19 patients within 10 days.
Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Niger have already received consignments of the potion. Others such as Tanzania have expressed interest.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly warned that there are no published scientific studies of the herbal tea and that its effects have not been tested.
“We would caution and advise countries against adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy,” WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said in a press briefing on Thursday, calling on Madagascar to take the drink “through a clinical trial”.
Moeti said that in 2000, African governments had committed to taking “traditional therapies” through the same clinical trials as other medication.
“I can understand the need, the drive to find something that can help,” Moeti said. “But we would very much like to encourage this scientific process in which the governments themselves made a commitment.”
South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday said Madagascar had reached out for “help” with scientific research.
“Our scientists would be able to assist with this research,” Mkhize tweeted, adding that South Africa would only “get involved in a scientific analysis of the herb”.
The country has the highest number of coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, with 7,808 infections and 153 fatalities recorded to date.
Neighbouring eSwatini — a tiny landlocked nation wedged between South Africa and Mozambique — said it would not consider Rajoelina’s tonic for the time being.
“It is important as a country to first ascertain where such herbal products have been tested,” she said Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi on Thursday.
“We have to do adequate proper research and be sure that the product works.”
To date eSwatini has reported 123 cases of coronavirus, including two deaths.
Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has debunked claims that it had ordered a package of Covid-Organics from a “third country”.
“We are aware that several claims of a COVID-19 cure have been made in different parts of the world,” ECOWAS said in a statement on Wednesday.
“But we can only support and endorse products that have been shown to be effective through scientific study.”