A Nigerian agency has written off Madagascar herbal drug ‘COVID Organic’ touted as capable of providing cure for Coronavirus.
The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) said at the weekend that its analysis of the drug “does not show any proof that it can cure COVID-19.”
Director-General of NIPR Dr. Obi Adigwe, giving an insight into the report it submitted to the government after laboratory assessment of the drug, said: “Well, I cannot tell you what they have done. I can only tell you what we have done here. The analysis we gave in our report is more detail than anything that had come from their country.
“They are hiding the analysis of their own product. If you go online, you cannot get the level of analysis that we gave.
“They are hiding a lot of things and I think it is possible that they know that they don’t have strong science backing up their claim.
“You know science takes time and it also needs a lot of money. That is what most people don’t understand.”
The Institute said the drug which contains mainly Artemisia annua, works to reduce the frequency of cough with maximum dose, producing an effect equivalent to that produced by the centrally acting cough-suppressant, dihydrocodeine.
NIPRD however said it will further investigate the drug’s effect on tracheal mucus expectoration.
According to NIPRD findings, “COVID ORGANICS – Green Pack (GPA) and Orange Pack (OPB) herbal products contain Artemisia annua as one of the components. Both samples have the characteristic features of Artemisia annua similar to those of the plant grown in NIPRD.
“COVID ORGANICS (OPB and GPA) contain other plants in addition to Artemisia annua. The proportion of Artemisia annua in the product is higher than that of the other plant component(s).
“Unlike the impression created by the labelling, the two COVID ORGANICS products are not the same with GPA sweeter with a higher extractive value than OPB. The HPLC and TLC profile of COVID ORGANICS products indicated the presence of artemisinin.
“Artemisinin was detected in the hot water infusion of the COVID ORGANICS products at a very low concentration and undetectable in one of the products. Hence, preparing the infusion as directed on the label produced very little artemisinin.
“Safety studies show that COVID ORGANICS (CVO) products do not
alter the normal physiology of animals.
“CVO caused a significant decrease in the platelet counts although the values are within the physiological range for Wistar rats.”
The Institute added, “The increase in alkaline phosphatase observed in the CVO female group may indicate a cause of concern although the values are within the physiological ranges for Wistar rats and this was not observed in the organs.
“On the whole CVO can be considered safe based on the model used which did not cover other routes of administration, effects of long-term use, or organ histological evaluation of the test systems.
“CVO reduced cough frequency with the maximum dose tested producing an effect equivalent to that produced by the centrally acting cough-suppressant, dihydrocodeine.
“To further characterize this product based on its effect on the respiratory tract, it will be important to investigate its effect on tracheal mucus expectoration.
“While CVO dose-dependently reduced general febrile response, the effect was not sustained and was less than for indomethacin.”
The NIPDR, however, said it has prepared its own product which is likely to be ready for presentation within the next six months.
Dr. Adigwe said: “There is one product we have that is having a lot of promise.
“We have finished passing it through the pre-clinical studies. Where we are now is that we are trying to package it for the clinical trial and that is a great deal of work. We are moving in a forward direction. We have hope that the product will give a succor.
“There has been some positive progress, but not to the stage that we can be categorical about it. But there has been some progress.
“We have submitted a letter, they have asked for concept note and we have done that and also submitted full proposal. There are some positive progress but there hasn’t been any release of funds so far.
“If things all come together and we get the needed funding, within the next six months, we should be able to have something categorical within.”
The Madagascar solution made its way to the Presidential Villa, Abuja on May 15 but President Muhammadu Buhari said it would not be administered on any Nigerian until it was scientifically confirmed to be safe for use.
Samples of the solution were presented to him by President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea Bissau who was on a visit to Nigeria.
Buhari said: “We have our institutions, systems and processes in the country. Any such formulations should be sent to them for verification.
“I will not put it to use without the endorsement of our institutions.”
Three days later, Madagascar asked Nigeria to pay 170,000 Euros for the cure drugs.
A source said: “For our consignments in Guinea Bissau, Madagascar has asked Nigeria to pay over €170,000 (N78, 200,000).
“We have received the invoice because the African country has made us realise that the drugs are not being given out free.
“We are being asked to pay for the drugs yet to be validated. Since the African Union (AU) directed the supply of the drugs to African countries, we may have no choice than to pay for it.”
But Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic, Boss Mustapha, said he was not aware of Madagascar’s demand for payment.
He said: “In terms of the question of whether it comes with a cost, it was handed to me without an invoice so I assume it doesn’t come with a cost.
“I think we have said repeatedly here that we did not ask for the Madagascar consignment. It was given by the government of Madagascar to African countries as their contribution to wanting to find a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Federal Government on July 2 said an analysis of ‘COVID Organics’ showed the mixture contains largely anti-malaria constituents.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said: “Preliminary results of the analysis of the so-called Madagascar herbs by the NIPRD show that it is the same as the plant Artemisia anua, which is grown in the NIPRD farm.”
Its President, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said: “We are appalled that Nigeria is about to spend scarce foreign exchange to import coal into Newcastle.
“Even if we are not going to pay for this, it is thoroughly disgraceful that a country that should be the leader of Africa, with the largest GDP, will allow itself to be dragged this low.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) urged Madagascar to scientifically test the herbal remedy.
WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti said: “We have offered to support the design of a study to look into this product.”
Madagascar has 7,049 COVID-19 cases, with 59 deaths as of Sunday. About 3,498 have recovered.
Madagascar has a population of over 27 million people.