- says, ‘give me some patients and see them healed’
- Seeks government support and sponsorship
- Expert says otherwise
By Chikezie Ogbonna and Fr. Anthony Aneke
Anselm Ekenechukwu Okonkwo on Wednesday 8th July 2020 while sitting at his clinic located at Abakpa Nike, Enugu reaffirmed a bold and bogus claim he has made long before now. He has successfully cured a couple of patients of Human Immune Deficiency Virus, HIV and has the medication to end Covid-19.
With his bold looks and deep voice tone veneered with unbridled confidence, Dr. Anselm Ekenechukwu Okonkwo spewed a scintillating aficionado of his discovery that it has the tendency to beguile anyone sitting with him.
This came to bear as he shared his tales with the Choice Flame Newspaper team led by her Editor in Chief and Managing Director, Rev. Fr. Anthony Aneke over claims that he has discovered the lasting solution to many diseases including HIV/AIDS as well as Coronavirus.
Born on 21st April 1950 and a native of Amozalla Affa, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. Anselm obtained Ordinary National Diploma in Agricultural Assistant Certificate in 1973 at Federal School of Agriculture, Umudike, Umuahia and became a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1980 at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He however delved into Ethno Pharmacology and has attended many symposiums, seminars, trainings in ethno pharmacology/ethno-medicine and homeopathic medicine.
Dr. Anselm who is also a Knight of the Catholic Church and operates a research center called St Rita Clinic and Ethno-medical Research Center located at No. 17 Ikem Street, Abakpa Nike, Enugu East Local Government Area said he embarked on a 3 years course on homeopathic study at the Nigerian Institute of Homeopathy, Enugu, after which he was awarded with the certificate of Doctor of Homeopathic studies.
According to Anselm, he is the major representative of his community in traditional medicine and a member of Association for Scientific Investigation Conservation and Utilization of Medicinal Plants of Nigeria.
Dr. Anselm lays claim to having found cure to 25 diseases inherent in both human and animals, top on the list are HIV/Aids, Cancer (Breast and Prostrate), Impotency and low sperm count as well as Increase immunity (CD4 Counts) etc.
How he cured a HIV patient
Narrating on how he successfully administered his discovered drug on a HIV patient with a 100% success rate recorded.
While narrating, Dr. Anselm said;
“It happened a long time ago between 1998-2001. People were dying in numbers before Antiretroviral drug used for palliating HIV was invented. The deaths touched me, so I asked God to help me produce something that can help humanity. You know in the study of herbal medicine they will tell you what each herb does and what disease they cure, the ones that can build up the body immunity, etc. And as a doctor, I know that these things are viral. In medical school you’ll go through pharmacology, biochemistry, anatomy, physiopathology, pathology, etc. From what they were saying I could interpolate all these things because herbal medicine works in synergy and that’s the beauty of it.
“A friend of mine came to me and said he had hepatitis E and was denied going oversea, I was worried. I know that Hepatitis E is a viral disease. So I told him to go and not worry, while I see to what can be done. I went back to my books and selected remedies, that could stop or reduce the virus. So when I selected them, I didn’t know what to do with them. Whether to pound or decompose or infuse them. But in my mind I felt I should boil them (decoction). So I cooked it and got the water. I called my friend and gave it to him and within a week he ran back to me and said that the Hepatitis E couldn’t be traced in him again.
“When he left, I contemplated that if this remedy could cure Hepatitis E, it can also cure HIV. Then, I was the coordinator for HIV/AIDS in the Ministry of Agriculture. We usually go to the State Secretariat to see HIV patients. Then, there were more than 600 people living with HIV in Enugu State at the time. So I told the coordinator there what I discovered. I told him, ‘let us try this remedy here and I wouldn’t charge them any amount. Let the patients come and I’ll be using my money to buy the material I’m using to make the remedy. I’ll be giving it to them freely.’ Then I heard that the Annunciation Hospital had a machine that can test for the load of the virus and CD4 count.
“I approached the Rev. Sister in charge of the hospital and we discussed. Initially, they were doing everything free for me, but when the number increased, they started charging a paltry sum of N3,000. And you know if you go to some government hospitals they will charge more, they may charge as high as N10,000. These people living with HIV are very wretched people. I manufacture the remedy in a paste form, named it Ritro and started giving it to patients. I didn’t want to call it Anti-HIV because I didn’t want people to stigmatize the patients if they are seen taking the remedy. In the course of using the Ritro, I discovered one thing. I saw that the CD4 count was going high, even to the point of normalcy while the viral load is still high. And it was a problem to me because you’ll see the patient looking healthy but the viral load will be high. Then I went into another research and produced another drug which I called Galiwonder.
I incorporated Galiwonder to the Ritro. With Galiwonder and Ritro, a woman with HIV got cured. It was amazing. What happened then was that, when she started taking it, she started feeling well, she was no more sick, no more stooling, no skin signs, nothing. But later, she started suffering from malaria and typhoid and was admitted at UNTH. The woman thinking she still had HIV, cautioned the nurses to very careful in handling her because she’s HIV positive. When the nurses heard this, they ran away from the woman and told the consultant. The consultant came back and interrogated the woman. The woman explained that she came to UNTH previously and was tested and confirmed HIV positive. She said, ‘there was a man at the ministry of Agriculture who treats me, I went to him, he gave me a remedy and I got better.’ They collected a sample of her blood, went to their pathology lab, tested and behold, it was negative. They came back later to the woman and asked her to go and get the original lab result.
“She did so and they found that the lab result was actually from this same lab that just tested her, and confirmed her negative. They asked her who treated her and she mentioned my name. But you know, there was fear then. If you say you can handle HIV, the government will be against you. They will be after you, trying to find out how possible.
Dr. Anselm said he is not making a false claim because he is sure that the remedies he discovered are effective and has been proven over the years. He however challenged anybody to come forward with a HIV patient and observe how his remedies will perform the miracle.
“I know and I’m not claiming it, if they want to test me, bring a HIV patient, bring hepatitis B patient, bring a diabetic patient. I’ll be giving them medicine, provided we are sincere and we’ll be monitoring. If these patients are provided, I’ll help the person”, he said.
When asked on the steps he has taken so far to reach out to Government concerning his discoveries and claims, Dr. Anselm bemoaned the neglect by the government. He said that in 2017, he wrote to the Federal Ministry of Health over his claims, but has since not gotten a reply from them which he of course blamed on the perceived jealousy and selfishness from certain interests.
“I’ve reached out to the Ministry of Federal Science and Technology, I think it was in 2017, and until date, there has been no response. I have documents to prove that. No acknowledgement from them. No government agency has come to investigate what I’m saying. The only thing is that there is this parastatal, that usually comes to train herbal practitioners. they used to ask us to bring what we have discovered, so on and so forth.
“What they do is that, when you give them your work, they hijack it and claim it. But they cannot achieve that with somebody as educated as I am. I can’t give you my work and you will claim it is yours. My patent right has to be protected.”
Dr. Anselm decried the dangerous level of envy and pull him down syndrome by some orthodox medicine practitioners. He however, urged the government and experts on the need to investigate the claims of herbal medicine while having an open mind, and see how to help sponsor the development of herbal medicine in the country as an alternative to tackle the many existing and emerging health challenges in the country.
“We have solutions to most sicknesses here. This is not an empty claim. I do research. When I did research on pile, I sent it to the University of Ghana, and they are working on it. When I did a research on Cancer, I finished with it and sent it to the University of Benin, and they’re working on it. So you see, people should have an open mind, and let us help humanity.”
“What I’m saying to the government is that, when somebody claims something like this, the government should take it up from that point and help develop it, and go further. Government should compensate and acknowledge that person. This is my advice to all.
While debunking the claim that herbal medicine lack dosage, Dr. Anselm shared his dosage methodology when administering drug to his clients.
While emphasizing on the efficacy of herbal medicine, a Medical Lab Scientist, Anthony Ugwu said that most spices and medicinal herbs, contain many phytochemical compounds whose toxic metabolites or toxicity on molecules, cells, tissues, organs and systems are not empirically determined, hence should be taken with caution.
According to him, Modern medicine also uses these medicinal plants, but they first study all phytochemical elements, their toxic metabolites and toxicity. They extract and purify the active substance of choice then establish side effect, adverse effect, contraindication and dosage and direct for specific purpose.
Anthony Ugwu is a specialist in Spectrum Laboratory located at Market Road close to Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu.
He further advised that anybody who comes with claims regarding herbal medicine should allow their findings to be subjected to further scientific research and objective reviews.
However an expert in the pharmacology, Ugodi Gerald Walter shed more light in the field of herbal medicine and what needs to be considered before taking serious the claim of Dr. Anselm Ekenechukwu Okonkwo.
Ugodi Gerald Walter is a Pharmacist and a lecturer in the Department of pharmaceutical chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) and Member Editor Emdex drug information publication. He is also a researcher with interest in the quality assurance and evaluation of African traditional medicines and the medicinal chemistry of natural products.
Understanding Herbal Medicine and its nature in contrast with Orthodox Medicine
According to Ugodi Gerlad Walter; “Herbal medicine generally is based on a lot things like traditions, beliefs, and experiences and some other cultural practices.
“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the total sum of knowledge, and practices based on theory, experiences and believe system of certain ethnic group or group of people with similar belief which can be explicable or non-explicable and are used to handle, manage, treat , prevent , diagnose physical and mental illness. You can understand that herbal medicine is a global issue.
“When it comes to pros and cons of herbal medicine, we have a lot of issues and challenges surrounding its use, particularly as it concerns us in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
“Challenges like the standard of herbal medicine that we use, the herbal practitioners that provide those herbal medicine, the end users which are the common patients that makes use of herbal medicine. When you look at the whole thing about herbal medicine, you will see that people believe that it is safe for use because there is this belief that everything natural is safe. But then, anything good can also be misused.
“Looking at it from that perspective, we can say that the pros of the uses of herbal medicine can be related to the issue of accessibility and cultural acceptability and safety nature of herbal medicine because people believe herbal medicine are safe for use and people also believe they can easily have access to it because its preparation doesn’t cost much to procure.
“The recent world report tells us that 80% of the world population depends on traditional medicine, however, there are other aspects of it that are global concern.
“When a herbal medicine is being used in a particular geographical area, we call it traditional medicine, but if it is improved and developed to the level that it can be used outside the territory where it is found, then we can now call it complimentary or alternative medicine. Therefore, some of those ones that are properly developed and has a volume of literature that have been validated, standardized, give a lot of good therapeutic outcomes and some of the herbal medicines that were used down here are the major sources of some of the orthodox medicines we use today.
“Many drugs produced by pharmaceuticals originated from herbal medicine. We have four (4) major sources of drug. They are plant source, inorganic source, synthetic and animal sources. Herbal medicine comprises the animal sources and the plant sources.
“Because we can easily source herbal medicine around us, it is a very big advantage, a very big plus and that makes it very much available, acceptable and people think it is safer to use.”
Disadvantages in Herbal Medication
Mr. Walter enumerated some of the seeming disadvantages of unsupervised and unstandardized herbal medication.
“For the fact that herbal medicine is being used to take care of ailments among local people in a particular geographic area, it makes the standard of its uses differ from one place to the other.
“From WHO definition, you will draw conclusion that herbal medicine is based on beliefs. one of such beliefs is Spiritism. A lot of myths and wrong belief system are therein in the use of herbal medicine. Besides, people could feel cured simply by Placebo effect. Placebo effect, in the sense that, someone feels cured by just believing that he is cured, not necessarily by taking the drug. He may feel relieved momentarily, which after the momentary psychological relieve, the symptoms of disease can still resurface. By this, you can now understand the nature of herbal medicine with respect to globally accepted standard.
“The standard of herbal medicine is not uniform from place to place.
“Another is the issue of dosage. If one is to use herbal medicine and the dose is not well stipulated, the person can engage in overdose or underdose. If underdosed, the therapeutic responses will not be effective and if overdose, the implication is that it will affect vital organs and that is one of the major problems we have with herbal medicine.
“A lot of people take it anyhow, they don’t actually know the dose to take and they believe it doesn’t harm, which is a fallacy that should be looked into seriously. Because, some young men and young women has actually endangered their lives.
“There is a fundamental law in drug use which says that every drug is poison, depending on the dosage. The poisonous nature of drug depend on the dose. Drugs is fundamentally poisonous.
“That law applies to every drug irrespective of whether its herbal medicine or orthodox medicine, it is applied to every drug to prevent diseases. So, if one takes herbal medicine without stipulated dose, it can become poisonous and the liver is the target organ. It is the organ that suffers most when such happens.
“People take herbal medicine on their own without recommendation from standard practitioners.
Dangerous Secrecy in herbal medicine
According to Mr. Walter, there is a profound secrecy in the practice of herbal medicine. Herbal practitioners generally do not have the same treatment protocol, rather it is shrouded in secrecy based on their individual researches and experiences. Speaking further, he said;
“Another issue is the lack of objective source of information.
“Most times, looking at the claims and statements on how they arrived at their conclusions, you will discover that there is no scientific background to the source of their information.
“We have some of our people who try to come up with drugs that can cure or manage Coronavirus. Many of them could not give accurate information on how they came about the drug. Some of them just came across their discovery by chance. But even in the course of getting it by chance, you still have to carry out a research before you can submit what is called Investigational new drug application and safety file to the regulatory body which is NAFDAC for them to now accept the findings and probably list it in the safe to use category. It does mean that it can cure the disease, but, at least they have found out that it is safe to use.
“Objective information is not obtainable in herbal medical practices and lack of good knowledge of possible interaction is yet another part of its impediments
A clash with Orthodox counterpart in clinical administration
While explaining the perceived clash between herbal medicine practitioners and her orthodox counterparts, Mr. Walter espoused a deeper understanding of the pharmaceutical protocol that should serve as a guiding principle for both practices.
He said; “In pharmacology, we have Polypharmacy which is a situation where one patient is suffering from many diseases at the same time and the person has to take many drugs at the same time.
“If you have such cases and you are given one particular patient at the same time , the expectation is that there will be what we call drug-drug interaction or drug-food interaction. The drug the person is taking will be affecting the efficacy and the potency of the other drugs and you find out that in herbal medicine, one can be taking two different drugs at the same time and the interaction is not well known as well as not well scientifically established, which is a very big issue is.
“The drug-drug interaction which is supposed to be enhancing the body reaction through its effectiveness has been altered and probably the herbal medicine and orthodox medicine interaction is not functioning as expected, resulting to a very poor effect.
“There are some patients that will come to you , they may not tell you that they are taking herbal medicine, they will be secretly taking herbal medicine while you are also giving them orthodox medicine. This could really lead to a deadly interaction that can kill. The aspect of drug interaction is a very deep one because it concerns endangering the liver and the kidney, which are the two major metabolic organ.
For Mr. Walter, unsupervised intake of herbal medicine under any guise is dangerous to the health and poses as a high risk to the essential organs in human being.
“The good news is that WHO from 1997 to 2000 has tried as much as they can to develop standard guideline, standard dosing and technical guideline for herbal medicine. And they also developed what they call communication and cooperation standard among countries. From country to country, you can get some herbal medicine today that have standard dosage, that can give you almost the same thing from one place to the other. Based on that, there is a control, but then, the issue is that , how many traditional healers can actually obey strictly the stipulated guideline by WHO for herbal medicine.
“That’s actually the problem we are facing today because many of our people are coming with claims that they have discovered drugs that can take care of Coronavirus, but the issue now is that when they are faced with questions, you will see that they can’t defend what they have discovered and it is a very big issue”, said Mr. Walter.
Verifying the Categories of Herbal medicine
Mr. Walter said the following; “We have four major categories of herbal medicine. The category one (1) is talking about a traditional healer preparing the herbal medicine in his house for an individual patient to take. Category two (2) is talking about herbal medicine that is currently used in a community and is being prepared by the community. Anybody can and everybody knows that this particular herbs can take care of this, can be prepared by cooking and be taken even though there may be no standardization.
“We also category three (3) , here, we are looking into the scientific point of view, by having an extract, getting the herbs , extracting the active pharmaceutical ingredients, that is, the actual ingredient that is responsible for the therapeutic efficacy of the herb, standardizing it and making use of it as a herbal medicine.
“In Category four (4), you isolate the particular component in the extract of Category (3). This extract can be used as a herbal medicine to take care of the disease. Now, you can see that Category three and four is about standardization as approved by the WHO.
“Category one and two are not recognized by WHO, you can do it within your area but they are not globally acceptable.
“Now, somebody who is claiming to have discovered the drug that can take care of Coronavirus could present his claims officially, legally to the appropriate regulatory body in Nigeria which is NAFDAC through the ministry of health. When such is presented, NAFDAC will have to interrogate further, investigate further and actually ascertain whether such drug could be used to take care of Coronavirus.
“This is because, he may be looking at the ability of the drug to take care of symptoms of Coronavirus. The ability of the drug to take care of symptoms is different from the ability of the drug to cure Coronavirus because we have what we call symptomatic use of drugs. It concerns the use of drugs to manage the symptom of an aligning disease. If you are suffering from malaria and you take paracetamol to take care of the headache which is one of the symptomatic manifestation of malaria, you have just used paracetamol to symptomatically manage the symptoms of malaria but then, you have not actually dealt with the malaria.