Nigeria: Buhari Orders Importation of Madagascar COVID-19 Herb

Wormwood and other herbs dried into an infusion (file photo).

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the airlifting of Nigeria's allocation of the Madagascar syrup, reportedly effective for the COVID-19 treatment.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja at the 29th joint national briefing of the taskforce.

Daily Trust reports that the Madagascan President, Andry Rajoelina, had three weeks ago officially launched a locally produced medicine he believes can prevent and cure patients suffering from COVID-19 ailment.

The drug was developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research and branded COVID Organics.

President Rajoelina while presenting the drug to the media, said it contains Artemisia, a plant cultivated in the country to fight against malaria.

"All trials and tests have been conducted and its effectiveness in reducing the elimination of symptoms has been proven for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 in Madagascar," President Rajoelina had said.

Rajoelina, a former DJ, said the formula had cured some people.

"This herbal tea gives results in seven days," Rajoelina, 45, told journalists and diplomats in April.

'It'll go through validation process'

However, the SGF while responding to a question on if Nigeria had ordered for the syrup said: "Madagascar has made allocations to various countries.

"It has been sent to Guinea Bissau by the president or prime minister of Madagascar and certain allocations have been made to different countries.

"We have an indication of the quantity that has been allocated to Nigeria and we are supposed to make an arrangement to freight it out of Guinea Bissau to Nigeria.

"I have received instructions from Mr. President to make arrangements to freight it home, with a clear instruction that I should subject it to the validation process similar to what will happen to any other medicine or syrup or vaccine that is discovered or created internally.

"So, it will be subjected to the same process before it is put into any form of use. There will be no exception for that," the SGF said.

Madagascar's herb also grows in Nigeria

Also speaking, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the plant used for the herbal drug produced by the Madagascar for the prevention and cure of COVID-19 grows in Nigeria.

The minister said the herbal drug would be subjected to analysis by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) to determine its efficacy and safety before it can be adopted for the treatment of COVID-19.

He stated: "We are going to get samples of the herb of the botanical product for analyses and also probably use that opportunity to speak with the health authorities there particularly the scientific community on how they use it.

"We will also give it to the research community here with us to examine and see what they can do with it.

"We understand that it is something called Artemisia Annua, which also grows here. But we would like to get that sample and compare it with the strain here to know if they are exactly identical or similar and then see what properties it has.

"It will be subjected to analysis to find out what works in there and how it works and is used in getting a cure. All countries around the world are interested in finding a cure and we are not different; so, we'll look at all options and promises that have been made.

"Before we give any of these medicines to our people, we will make sure they are actually safe and that they work," he said.

Ehanire also stated that the presidential task force would continue to encourage local producers of personal protective equipment (PPE), as it prefers local ones to their foreign counterparts.

"Some Nigerian manufacturers of PPEs have made presentations to us and shown us samples of what they can make. We have sent those samples to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to look at it to see if they are well constructed and if the materials used are good.

"Once we have the go-ahead, we definitely prefer local production of personal protective equipment to foreign ones, first because they are fast and quick, and also because they create jobs and stimulate the economy. We give preference so local manufacturers," he said.

The minister also disclosed that Lagos, FCT, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano states had enrolled on the World Health Organisation (WHO) treatment regimen on solidarity drug trials.

Daily Trust reports that the WHO announced that Nigeria expressed interest to be part of the global solidarity drug trial to tackle COVID-19 pandemic and that the process would soon start in the country.

The Officer-in- Charge, WHO Nigeria and member of the PTF on COVID-19, Dr. Fiona Braka, told Daily Trust in an exclusive interview in Abuja that what Nigeria signed up for was drug trial and not vaccine trial, as there was yet no vaccine for the COVID-19.

How Madagascar discovered its formula

Daily Trust reports that the whole world is enveloped in uncertainty as attention shifts to how to tame the ravaging COVID-19.

According to Worldometer, there were 4,234,563 confirmed COVID-19 cases by 8.16pm yesterday. The disease had killed 285,911 people while 1,519,075 have recovered.

Madagascar's herbal remedy is produced from Artemisia, a plant with proven efficacy against malaria.

It is used with other indigenous herbs, according to the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research, which developed the beverage.

The Aljazeera reported that the plant was first imported into Madagascar in the 1970s from China to treat malaria.

"It is now marketed in bottles as an herbal tea, while Rajoelina has said clinical trials are under way in Madagascar to produce a form that can be injected into the body," the news site said.

Despite the apparent reception of the former, the World Health Organisation (WHO) advised people against using untested remedies for COVID-19.

"Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world," WHO, the United Nations health agency.

"Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical," it said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also warned people against using unproven remedies.

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