Kenya is not quick to take up experimental cure for Covid-19 from Madagascar.
This revelation came even as the government confirmed the country has been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to take part in clinical trials.
The confirmation for the Solidarity Trial, which is a WHO-led programme in which countries and scientists sign up to find treatment and vaccine for Covid-19, comes as 25 more Covid-19 positive cases were confirmed yesterday. The number of cases in Kenya now stands at 490.
Dr Mercy Mwangangi, the Health Ministry Chief Administrative Secretary said while the drug from Madagascar, a drink dubbed Covid-Organics, is lauded as an African ingenuity, Kenya has strict protocols before an experimental drug is accepted.
For the drug to come into Kenya and be used, she said Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has to vet it for its efficacy.
“Of course we support ingenuity and innovation in Africa and that is something to be celebrated. But this celebration needs to occur under protocols and procedures which such drugs have been evaluated, especially for safety,” Dr Mwangangi said.
While Kenya is skeptical to take up the drug, other African countries among them Tanzania and Guinea Bissau have already placed their orders.
The drug, launched by Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina, is developed from the artemisia plant, which is used to treat malaria. WHO has however warned against using the drug for Covid-19.
“Remember, at the end of the day a drug comes into your body and does something in terms of curing, but drugs also have side effects and therefore there has to be rigorous protocols put in place to evaluate it,” Mwangangi said.
Dr Mwangangi was fielding questions after giving an update of the current Covid-19 cases in Kenya. While 25 new cases have been reported, the number of recoveries are 173 after six more persons tested negative.
The new cases come from Nairobi with 15 and Mombasa with 10.
Acting Health Director General Dr Patrick Amoth, who accompanied the CAS, announced that in terms of treatment, Kenya has finally been accepted by WHO to be part of the Solidarity Trial.
The trials, however, he said will be limited to the kind of drugs already accepted by the global health body. One such is Remdesivir, which is the latest drug to be registered as Covid-19 treatment therapy by the United States' Food and Drug Administration.
The drug, however has no tablet form, and is only administered intravenously, which may be a limitation to Kenyans as it is given to hospitalised patients who have severe symptoms of the disease, like difficulty in breathing.
“One factor is that most of our cases are asymptomatic,” Dr Amoth said. “So if we are to go for the very expensive compound to apply for a small population, then we will be able to make that judgement based on the numbers.”
He added: “The compounds we will use will be dependent on how available they are, their compassionate use protocol and the clinical presentations of the cases.”
Compassionate use is when a drug not yet approved is used to treat a disease when no other treatment therapy is available.