The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Monday said the Federal Government and the World Health Organisation were carrying out COVID-19 drug trial in the Federal Capital Territory and fives states.
Ehanire, who disclosed this at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 press briefing in Abuja, listed the states as Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano.
The minister confirmed that Nigeria was expecting a herbal drug, COVID Organic, from Madagascar. The drug was reported to have been used by the Indian Ocean island country to cure patients, who tested positive for COVID-19.
Also, the PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had directed the airlifting of COVID Organic to Nigeria.
However, both Ehanire and Mustapha said the herbal drug would be subjected to scientific analyses in the country.
According to them, the drug will only be used in Nigeria after it has been confirmed to be safe and working.
The WHO had said it had not approved the use of the drug, but Madagascar President, Andry Rajoelina, slammed the organisation for not endorsing it.
“If it were a European country which had discovered this remedy, would there be so many doubts?,’’ Rajoelina had asked in an exclusive interview with France 24, a Paris-based international television news network.
He added, “The problem is that it comes from Africa. And they cannot accept that a country like Madagascar, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, has discovered this formula to save the world.”
But at the PTF press briefing on Monday, Nigeria’s health minister explained the Federal Government’s efforts to combat the virus.
He said senior officials of the Federal Ministry of Health held a video meeting with Chinese medical and academic experts in Beijing on Monday to seek further treatment strategies from China.
According to him, Nigeria is taking part in the WHO solidarity international clinical trial, which is aimed at finding an effective treatment for COVID-19.
The trial aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slow disease progression or improves survival.
He stated, “On the WHO treatment, the Federal Government is cooperating with the WHO on treatment regimen solidarity trial with the following enrolled; Lagos, FCT, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano.”
He also spoke on strange deaths in Kano, Sokoto and Bauchi states.
He stated, “On the update in Kano, the ministerial task team deployed to assist in the containment effort and provide direction in managing the COVID-19 situation has made significant gains. The investigation into unexplained deaths in the state has to complete its work.
“On Katsina, a detailed report is being awaited and it is expected to provide a roadmap to addressing the challenges in line with the response pillars. A contingent of the ministry team in Kano will also visit Bauchi State on a fact-finding mission. A team will later visit Sokoto at the invitation of the state authorities on a similar mission.”
Ehanire added that the Federal Government would send the COVID-19 cure being expected from Madagascar for analyses and comparison with the Nigerian strain to identify similarities, differences, as well as how it works.
Madagascar was reported on Monday to have offered African countries its COVID-19 cure. According to the report, the consignments for Nigeria were sent Guinea Bissau, from where they will be brought to the country.
Speaking on the herbal cure, the minister said, “With regard to the cure from Madagascar, it is making the news and we have promised of being able to get samples of the botanical products. We will be speaking with the health experts and the scientific community on how to use it. We will also give it to the research community here 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 will like to, if we get that sample, compare it with the strain here whether they are identical and see what properties it has. Things like that are subjected to analyses to see what works there and how it works.
“Obviously all countries in the world are interested in finding a cure and we are not different. So we will look at all possibilities and all options. But before we give it to our people, we will make sure that it is actually safe and it actually works.”
The PTF chairman said the task force would soon release a new protocol on COVID-19 after reviewing existing guidelines.
Mustapha said the President had given permission to freight a consignment of Madagascar’s COVID-19 organic from Guinea Bissau for treatment and cure of the disease.
He, however, said the drug would only be administered after undergoing all necessary validation process with relevant agencies of the government as in the case of drug research and approval to guarantee safety of Nigerians.
Mustapha stated, “On the Madagascar’s syrup, it is being freighted to Guinea Bissau by the President of Madagascar. Certain allocations have been made to different countries. We have an indication of the quantity for Nigeria.
“I have received instructions from Mr President to freight it home with a clear instruction that I should subject it to the validation process similar to what will happen to any medicine, vaccine or syrup that is discovered internally.”