By Chioma Obinna
Following the news that Nigeria was taking delivery of COVID-19 drug manufactured by Madagascar, experts in the country’s pharmaceutical industry are worried.
The experts noted that having COVID-Organics, as the drug is known, should not be a priority for the Federal Government.
They told Sunday Vanguard that with about 174 universities, 20 faculties of pharmacy and about 69 federal-funded research institutes, accepting ‘concoction’ from a country like Madagascar with only six universities, one faculty of pharmacy and nine research centres is shameful. President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Sam Ohuabunwa, described the government’s move as distasteful.
Conduct clinical trials
Ohuabunwa said: “Even if we are not going to pay for this, it is thoroughly disgraceful that a country that should be the leader of Africa will allow itself to be dragged this low. “Nigeria has developed a pharmacopeia of natural and herbal products with one of the richest flora and fauna – potent sources of phytomedicines. “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many scientists and herbal companies have raised their voices that they have herbal and natural products that can be used to treat or manage COVID-19, but the federal government has failed to review the claims.
“We have raised our voices severally that the Federal Government should review these claims and help put them through clinical evaluation as most of the producers cannot afford to conduct clinical trials. “We have recommended that a portion of the funds donated/allocated for the COVID-19 pandemic should be dedicated to local research and development. “But our government has remained silent. It is only waiting to participate in WHO-sponsored or mandated trials.
“Why are we like this? If the world can supply us synthetic and chemically-sophisticated medicines which we lack the technology to produce, why must we wait for the world to supply us herbal formulations which we can easily make?
“Let us try our local formulations before we use COVID-Organics or any other imported remedy. Every well-meaning nation is in the race to find cures, remedies and other medical supplies used for COVID-19, but we seem to wait for other nations to solve our problems.”
On his part, National President, National Union of Allied Health Professionals, NUAHP, Dr. Ogbonna Obinna, was apprehensive about the Madagascar mixture. Obinna explained: “Our scientists have similar products, especially our pharmacists who are specialists in pharmacology, pharmacognosy and pharmacokinetics.
“They had come up with so many products that have been proclaimed effective in treating COVID-19, but our government created many bottlenecks, insisting that it must pass through the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC.
“All the constituents of the organic concoction from Madagascar, especially the active ingredients, are available here in Nigeria.
“Some of my members who are pharmacists had already worked on them and are willing to prove it but government has not shown commitment.
“We are too quick to import things that we can produce here in our country.COVID-19 is an eye-opener for us to encourage indigenous innovation. I won’t be surprised if some top government functionaries make financial gains from this Madagascar organic concoction.’’
Also reacting, National Publicity Secretary of Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, Dr. Casmier Ifeanyi, urged government to indicate interest in various mixtures formulated by Nigerians. He said: “We had expected that government will look inward and evaluate the claims of Nigerians and their alternative remedy for COVID-19. “We are only saying that while we evaluate the Madagascar organic concoction, we should give the same level of attention to the various claims of homemade remedies available in Nigeria. “In the early 80s, Tanzania reached out to the late Dr. Paul Ojei in Lagos who had a mixture for a strange disease that was killing their people at the time. It was discovered that the cause of that strange disease was Ebola.
“Some are things used as condiments for food in Nigeria, have been reported to be efficacious in the management of the disease. 80 percent of viral infections are self-limiting. “The interventions are basically supportive or symptomatic.
“We want to commend the openness of President Muhammadu Buhari and Presidential Task Force, PTF. We want them to give similar attention to homemade remedies.’’
Meanwhile, Professor Maurice Iwu, Rv Fr Anselm Gbenga Adodo and Hon Toby Okechukwu spoke on Covid-Organics in seperate interviews