Nigeria: Madagascar As a State of Mind

opinion

How can it be so difficult to subject these 'remedies' to the simple process of verification to be able to obtain approval and possible large scale production? Why does everyone who comes up with a remedy want to see the minister? Is there a problem at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)? What is wrong with following through the protocols there?

Madagascar is a metaphor. It is a symbolism; a window into the state of our mind as a people. It speaks to our abhorrence for process. It speaks to this siege mentality holding us captive, whispering the lack of confidence into our ears, making us see ghosts in every corner, even when they might not be there.

We are either seeing the ghosts of Bill and Melinda Gates coming with vaccines to force into our butts or seeing an apparition of the World Health Organisation pressing us down, refusing to recognise our remedies so that they can come administer the 666 vaccine on us all. Now, in broad daylight, we are seeing the ghost of the National Assembly trying to pass a law to force-administer vaccines on us all.

Ghosts everywhere. Yet, we were warned. Someone told us how 4G brought Ebola and how 5G has brought coronavirus. Did we listen? Now, they are set to force places of worship to set up testing centres and those who meet set criteria will be designated COVID-19 compliant. Even now we are not listening to the ghost-buster.

Ghosts everywhere, conspiracy theories everywhere, miracle drugs and vaccines for COVID-19 everywhere; it is so chaotic. A pandemic of ghosts, theories, claims, cures and all sorts in a season of pandemics. Yet, it is only our Madagascar mindset catching up with us.

Yesterday, a Facebook Doctor put up a drug on his page, proclaiming it as cure for COVID-19 and one that can prevent infection for the next one year. The drug has been in existence for a while, used for something else all together. But this 'Doctor' somehow stumbled upon information that it is the elusive drug and went ahead to prescribe it to the public.

As at the time I saw it, there was already a tonne of comments and shares praising and blessing the man, with the few calls for caution shut down. Some promised to quickly go get the drug. One lamented that but for the Ramadan fast going on, he would have immediately popped two tablets. Just like that. Five hours after putting up the post, this 'Doctor' comes to post a note of warning on the use of the drug, probably having just come by that. Is that not too late? How do you rein the sheep already let loose?

That is the danger of a Madagascar mindset, proceeding with the process of mass administration before subjecting to trials and establishing efficacy, not to talk of possible side effects. For us, we are so consumed by the moment that we either do not bother about the process or we want to short-circuit this without a convincing explanation. We want the end product without the pain of going through the process, just as we obtain the Vaccination Card without receiving the vaccine.

That is what the World Health Organisation is saying: "Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world... Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical."

In the last few weeks, there have been unending claims coming from the alternative medical world. We all know many plants have medicinal values. We all know many pharmaceutical drugs have their base in these plants. But what has been drawing us back is our weakness with the extraction and isolation process for production, as well as dosage administration. We all know the process involved with trials and approval. What never ceases to baffle is how these our efficacious herbal remedies never seem to be able to conquer these universal odds, but are always loud with claims.

How can it be so difficult to subject these 'remedies' to the simple process of verification to be able to obtain approval and possible large scale production? Why does everyone who comes up with a remedy want to see the minister? Is there a problem at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)? What is wrong with following through the protocols there? Do we compromise the public good for the sake of staking claim as another Madagascar?

I saw the information put out by Pax Herbal and was not surprised that a rebuttal came from NAFDAC. I have followed Father Adodo of Pax and the monks at Ewu, with their herbal remedies for over 15 years. I am looking at one of his books here. He has remedies for 26 diseases, excluding the urine therapy he claims to have used for cancer and skin troubles. How I wish he has in the last two decades scaled up work on just one of these remedies, so as to secure approval and mass produce it like the regular pharmaceutical drugs. What is it with everyone jumping on the COVID-19 train?

Ghosts of unproven remedies everywhere. What does one make of the letter from the Ojeihs? What is this fixation with the government? This track is worn. The letter reminds one of the original himself? Remedies will always speak for themselves, irrespective of the claims, won't they? Ojeih said he was ready to infect and cure himself. Wish he had gone through that process under supervision and documentation, and make the findings available for review before coming public. What is it with process that we are uncomfortable with?

That takes us to Madagascar. It is amusing seeing one thread after the other touting Madagascar on one hand and lampooning the World Health Organisation for not approving this miracle drug that has been touted as both a cure and preventive. They have been accusing the WHO of all sorts, accusing the organisation of bias, not forgetting to disparage Nigeria in the process.

You might wonder what WHO has got to do with all of these. Has the process of approval for drugs and vaccines ceased to be outside national jurisdiction? Has Madagascar followed the process? Has the 'drug' gone through the process of review and approval, which can then serve as a basis for consideration in external jurisdictions? The power of approval would not reside in the president of the country or the Malagasy Research Institute which claims to have come up with the drug. Madagascar should know what the process is and simply follow it.

That is what the World Health Organisation is saying: "Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world... Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical."

One would have thought that should precede the process of mass administration, as we have seen. Well, one can only hope it's not too late in this business of the fastest fingers. The president of Madagascar is talking about increasing production of the plant and setting up a factory. Hope these decisions are being led by science and business.

What is the problem here? What is it with us and simply following the process?

On the 'drug' itself, one wonders if the excitement is not undue. First, the medicinal value of the Artemisia plant has long been known, traced to the Chinese as early as 340BC. "Researchers later identified the molecular structure of artemisinin and discovered more derivatives, eventually producing the first artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for malaria, known as Coartem."

Beyond its recommendation as the most effective anti-malarial, scientists have also researched for more medicinal uses for SARS and HIV. So, the possible use of Artemisia is not an exclusive Madagascar affair. On its possible use for COVID-19, researchers in other parts of the world are equally working on this. Of course, we all know about the power of the big pharmaceuticals, but getting by cannot be by aborting or ignoring the process.

Madagascar says it wants to begin clinical trials.

One would have thought that should precede the process of mass administration, as we have seen. Well, one can only hope it's not too late in this business of the fastest fingers. The president of Madagascar is talking about increasing production of the plant and setting up a factory. Hope these decisions are being led by science and business.

The process is there for good reasons. We can only short circuit it where there are verifiable and valid reasons to do so. We should familiarise ourselves more with process and stop crying wolf, often where there is none.

Simbo Olorunfemi works for Hoofbeatdotcom, a Nigerian Communications Consultancy and publisher of Africa Enterprise. Twitter: @simboolorunfemi

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