The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has ordered the immediate manufacturing of Chloroquine for emergency stock for possible clinical trial treatment of COVID-19.
In a statement obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, the Director-General of the agency, Mojisola Adeyeye, said the old antimalarial is being repurposed for the clinical trial treatment of the virus.
There were early controversies surrounding the use of chloroquine as a treatment option for COVID-19.
President Donald Trump of the United States of America had on Thursday, March 19, announced that the U.S. had approved the anti-malaria drug, Chloroquine, for use as a treatment against the virus.
His statement was, however, quickly countered by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Amidst claims by the Lagos State government that it had begun treatment for people suffering from chloroquine poisoning, Nigeria's health minister, Osagie Ehanire clarified that the country had not approved chloroquine for COVID-19 treatment.
The NAFDAC boss, however, said the decision to commence the clinical trial treatment follows the use of chloroquine in other countries to treat the ailment.
Nigeria has so far recorded 111 cases of the virus, including one death.
Ms Adeyeye said researchers in France, U.S. have used the drug for clinical trial treatment of COVID-19 and they reported effectiveness of the drug.
"Lagos State will be starting a clinical trial on chloroquine to evaluate the effectiveness," she said.
Explaining the events that led to this decision, she said, "In a very recent publication, chloroquine was reported in a press briefing by the State Council of China, indicating that chloroquine phosphate had demonstrated marked efficacy and acceptable safety in treating COVID-19 associated pneumonia in a multi-center clinical trials conducted in China.
"The study involved 10 hospitals in Wuhan, Jingzhou, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Ningbo, and 100 patients.
"The investigators reported that chloroquine phosphate is superior to the control in inhibiting the pneumonia associated with COVID-19, and shortening the course of the disease," she said.
She also said Chloroquine works by increasing endosomal pH from the acidic environment required for virus/cell fusion, resulting in the inhibition of infection of SARS-CoV.
"It also interferes with the glycosylation of cellular receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2. This may inhibit the virus-receptor binding and terminate the infection.
"The antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects of chloroquine contribute to the efficacy in treating COVID-19 patients," she said.
Ms Adeyeye, however, advised the public to desist from its use without the guidance of a medical doctor or clinician for cases of clinical trial treatment of COVID-19.
She also said the use of chloroquine has side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, blurred vision, headache and pruritis (itching).
"The itching can be relieved by using antihistamine. Prolonged use can also cause retinopathy or vision impairment."