The World Health Organization has endorsed a protocol for testing African herbal medicines as potential treatments for the coronavirus and other epidemics.
The endorsement given by the Regional Expert Committee on Traditional Medicine for COVID-19 formed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs is for phase III clinical trials of herbal medicine for COVID-19.
Phase III clinical trials are pivotal in fully assessing the safety and efficacy of a new medical product.
36 candidate vaccines are in clinical evaluation with 9 of them in phase III clinical trials according to WHO. Additional 146 candidate vaccines are in preclinical evaluation.
“Just like other areas of medicine, sound science is the sole basis for safe and effective traditional medicine therapies,” said Dr. Prosper Tumusiime, Director of Universal Health Coverage and Life Course Cluster at WHO Regional Office for Africa.
The endorsement on Saturday followed a bid by Andry Rajoelina, president of Madagascar in May to promote Covid-Organics (CVO), a drink based on Artemisia, a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment which was touted by the president as a cure for Covid-19. Although Tumusiime did not mention CVO by name.
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.
If a traditional medicine product is found to be safe, efficacious, and quality-assured, WHO will recommend for a fast-tracked, large-scale local manufacturing, Dr. Tumusiime explained,
He said that through the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum, there is now a benchmark upon which clinical trials of medicines and vaccines in the region can be assessed and approved in fewer than 60 days.
“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, the Expert Committee Chairman.
He said that the generic clinical trial protocol will be immediately used by scientists in the region to ensure that people can benefit from the potential of traditional medicine in dealing with the ongoing pandemic.
Globally 30.8 million cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed with 21.1 million recoveries and 957,959 deaths according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.
Africa has confirmed a total of 1.4 million cases of Covid-19 with 1.1 million recoveries and 33,818 deaths according to the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nigeria has reported 57,145 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 48,431 recoveries and 7,619 deaths according to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
However, the cases in Nigeria are believed to under-reported due to the limited number of testing across the country. Nigeria has tested just 472,191 samples since the outbreak began. This total is far below the daily number of tests done in the U.S.