By Sola Ogundipe & Chioma Obinna
The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, on Tuesday, said chloroquine is effective in the early stages of COVID-19 infection.
The Director-General of NAFDAC, Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, said this during an online news conference, where she also confirmed that the agency received about 40 applications for the approval of herbal formulations for the treatment of COVID-19 from researchers in the country.
Adeyeye who said the 40 herbal formulations were currently undergoing review to ensure their safety for use, explained that if not well researched, herbal medicines can kill fast.
“In March 2019, we inaugurated the Nigerian Herbal Medicine Product Committee (HMPC) to bridge the gap often created between traditional medicine practitioners and researchers.
“COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity and we have been encouraging traditional medicine practitioners to submit their herbal formulations for evaluation.
“We also developed guidelines on how to register herbal medicine online and the labelling of the product.
“Prof. Maurice Iwu’s application for approval of herbal medicine for the management of COVID-19 is also part of the 40 applications we are reviewing for safety.
“We use animals for safety test to ensure the formulation will not kill anybody, “she said
Adeyeye emphasised that there was no cure for COVID-19 yet and warned that any claim of cure must be subjected to clinical trials following an approved clinical trial protocol.
“Until a clinical trial is done in a scientific manner, no herbal medicine manufacturer can claim cure or effectiveness to treat COVID-19 associated symptoms.
“I believe that Nigeria’s herbal medicines may be able to cure COVID-19. They have a lot of potentials and it is time to translate the research of herbs into products of proven safety and efficacy, for the benefit of our people. ”
Further, giving update on the use of chloroquine for treatment of COVID-19, Adeyeye said that the drug is working but only at the early stage.
“We have realised that chloroquine is effective at the early stage. I was watching CNN about four days ago and heard Sanjay Gupta, the medical doctor, and correspondent mention for the first time that chloroquine can be used prophylactically.
“This was in the US, and to come from him was significant because all the while he had been saying that it was not effective, but this was proving it. If something is working prophylactically, it means that the illness will not progress.”
In her argument, Adeyeye stated that science does not lie but had been mixed with politics.
“We have mixed science with politics and many people are dying across the world. Science does not lie. We now understand that it is not only one drug that can be effective against COVID-19; it depends on the stage of the disease.”
According to her, to treat an average COVID-19 patient, it costs about $5 with chloroquine and about $2,500 with remdesivir.
“When we got the profile of remdesivir, what was recorded in literature and from the manufacturer was that remdesivir does not work in the early stage but in the late stage.
“We started working with Lagos State because they have chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and other drugs. They are still working on chloroquine, but what we are getting from the grapevine is that it is working but not at every stage,” she affirmed.