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WHO lays protocols for conducting trials on Covid-19 herbal medicine

Reproductive Health - By Japheth Ogila

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina when he launched the Covid-Organic, a herbal medicine he claimed cured Covid-19. [Courtesy, Standard]

The Regional Expert Committee on Traditional Medicine for Covid-19, an edifice of World Health Organisation (WHO), Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs, has endorsed phase III clinical trials of herbal medicines for Covid-19.

According to a press release from WHO, released on September 19, 2020; the trials are to ascertain the scientific and clinical efficacy of drugs before they are cleared for Covid-19 treatment.

“Just like other areas of medicine, sound science is the sole basis for safe and effective traditional medicine therapies,” said Dr Prosper Tumusiime, who is the Director of Universal Health Coverage and Life Course Cluster at WHO Regional Office for Africa.

“The onset of Covid-19, like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, has highlighted the need for strengthened health systems and accelerated research and development programmes, including on traditional medicines,” added Tumusiime.

This endorsement will ensure that African scientists are accorded the opportunity to exercise their technical capacity to run clinical trials on the herbal products. According to WHO, participants’ safety will be a priority. The scientists will be able to subject a product to ‘continuation, modification or termination of a trial based on evaluation’ on the outcome.

WHO states: “The endorsed technical documents are aimed at empowering and developing a critical mass of technical capacity of scientists in Africa to conduct proper clinical trials to ensure quality, safety and efficacy of traditional medicines in line with international standards.”

“Phase III clinical trials are pivotal in fully assessing the safety and efficacy of a new medical product. The data safety and monitoring board will ensure that the accumulated studies data are reviewed periodically against participants’ safety,” adds.

According to Tumusiime, the process will take 60 days and African Vaccine Regulatory Forum will play a crucial role in benchmarking the clinical process. Once cleared and verified, the concerned stakeholders will recommend large-scale of manufacture of the product and its distribution.

“The adoption of the technical documents will ensure that universally acceptable clinical evidence of the efficacy of herbal medicines for the treatment of Covid-19 are generated without compromising the safety of participants,” said Professor Motlalepula Gilbert Matsabisa who is the Expert Committee Chairman.

The Regional Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicine for Covid-19 comprises a group of 25 members charged with supporting African countries in clinical trials on herbal medicine to combat the virus.

The development comes months after Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina launched a controversial herbal concoction that he promoted as a cure to the virus.

The product, dubbed Covid-Organic, was produced by Malagasy Institute of Applied Research from an Artemisia plant used in processing anti-malarial drugs.

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