The herbal drug which Madagascar says it uses to treat COVID-19 patients has reached Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who received portions of the drug from Guinea Bissau President Umaro Embalo on Saturday, said the drug must be verified before use.
Top Nigerian medical associations such as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) rejected it, describing the country’s acceptance of the remedy as embarrassing.
However, the Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu in a statement by Buhari on Saturday said the drug will go through the verification process which other remedies for the disease are being subjected to.
“We have our institutions, systems and processes in the country. Any such formulations should be sent to them for verification. I will not put it to use without the endorsement of our institutions,” Buhari said.
On the main reason for his visit, President Embalo said having stabilized his country after the tussles that attended the general elections won by him, he had come to seek counsel from his “father,” President Buhari on his plan for a “government of national unity” and a proposed war against corruption in his country.
He also said that his new government met a country beset with a number of issues and problems, the resolution of which would require tremendous assistance from the “big brother,” Nigeria.
“Problems of Guinea Bissau are problems of Nigeria. I have come to you as your son. I need your help and assistance to make the people happy. I will not let you down, neither will I put you in any difficult situation,” the visiting leader told President Buhari.
In response to these demands, the Nigerian leader commended “General“ Embalo on his confirmation as President and for stabilizing the country. “I commend your political dexterity in getting the opposition to join the proposed unity government,” he said.
Buhari restated the determination of Nigeria to keep West Africa politically stable and promised to support the new government in Guinea Bissau. “I will cooperate and help in every way possible,” assured the Nigerian President.
Buhari also used the opportunity of the visit to praise the good work that the President of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou, who is the current Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is doing in the sub-region, and commended him for keeping him informed of all that is happening around.
The drug, which is branded as herbal tea and named COVID-Organics, was launched on April 20, with its main ingredient being sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), a plant of Asian origin from where the antimalarial drug, artemisinin, came.
At least 55 COVID-19 patients in Madagascar have recovered after being treated with the remedy.
During the launch, Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina had said: “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.”
But the herbal remedy has remained a subject of controversy. Madagascar’s national medical academy had cast doubt on its efficacy while the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it is still being studied.