COVID-19: Madagascar drug to get quick lab analysis, says NAFDAC

2020-05-17
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Daniels Igoni

Following the arrival of the Madagascar herbal cure for COVID-19 in Nigeria on Saturday, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has promised to fast-track the laboratory examination of the drug, named Covid Organics.

The agency, which regulates and controls the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, packaged water, chemicals and detergents, noted that the product would be subjected to the normal procedure but that the process would be fast-tracked.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had while receiving the samples of the product, also known as CVO, from the visiting President of Guinea Bissau, Umaro Embalo, at the presidential villa noted that he would first “listen to science” before allowing the product or any new medicines to be used in Nigeria.

The President told his guest that the relevant regulatory institutions in the country would need to endorse the product before it could be used by Nigerians.

“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 told Embalo.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, NAFDAC’s Director of Public Relations, Dr Abubakar Jimoh, who spoke on behalf of the agency’s director-general, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, noted that the agency would prioritise the laboratory examination of the product once it received it from the authorities.

He said, “When the drug arrives, it will go to the Minister of Health who will in turn hand it over to NAFDAC through the PTF. It is after that we would start our laboratory examination. It will be subjected to the normal procedure.

“We would expedite action on this because everyone is anxiously waiting for the result. We would speed it up but it will still have to go through the normal laboratory analysis and medical evaluation.

“Unlike the orthodox medicine, with the herbal medicine, it is given linctus status, it is not given full registration and that means it has a life span of two years, unlike normal drug that has a life span of five years. So, this is what will be applicable to the Madagascar drug. We would ensure that the claims being made are true.”

When asked how long it could take for the laboratory examination to be concluded, he said the normal procedure was three months but that given the situation at hand, the process would be prioritised without compromising the efficiency of the process.

He said, “The normal mandatory procedure is three months, but under this emergency, we would give it a top priority to come out with urgent results. In the process of the evaluation, if NAFDAC needs to get in touch with the manufacturers we will. It all depends on the analysis in the lab.

“This kind of drug does not go through a clinical trial at this stage; it is only when it wants to go through registration that it will be subjected to clinical trial. We are only going to determine its safety and efficacy now.”

Embalo had during the visit said his main reason for visiting Buhari was to thank him and seek his fatherly counsel after the tussles that attended the general elections in Guinea Bissau, which he won.

He disclosed his plan to form a government of national unity and follow in the footsteps of Buhari to begin a war against corruption.

Embalo added that his new government inherited myriads of challenges and would require the “big brother” support of Nigeria to pull through, adding, “The 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.”

Buhari, who commended Embalo on his victory and for being able to stabilise his country, noted that Nigeria was determined to keep West Africa politically stable, promising to support the new government in Guinea Bissau.

He said, “I commend your political dexterity in getting the opposition to join the proposed unity government. I will cooperate and help in every way possible.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said in a statement that Buhari seized the opportunity to praise the President of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou, for the “good work” he had done in the West African sub-region.

Issoufou is the current Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States.

Following the criticisms that greeted the planned importation of the Madagascar drug into Nigeria, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, said on Thursday that Nigeria did not request the herbal medicine from Madagascar.

He explained it was a gesture from Madagascar to all African countries, including Nigeria. He noted that the quantities meant for each African country were airlifted to Guinea Bissau from where respective African countries would airlift theirs.

Mustapha stressed that the President had given a clear instruction that he should subject the product to the same validation process any internally manufactured product would be taken through and that he should make arrangements to “freight it home.”

Meanwhile, the President of Guinea Bissau personally delivered the products to Nigeria on Saturday.

The Regional Director of World Health Organisation office in Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said at a media briefing on Thursday that the WHO was “in touch with the government of Madagascar.”

There is an ongoing search for a vaccine for the raging virus, which has infected 4,706,088 persons across the world, out of which 311,899 persons have died while 1,802,555 persons have recovered.

176 new cases, 9 new deaths recorded

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control announced 176 new cases on Saturday, pushing the total cases to 5,621. There were nine new deaths while 292 persons were discharged.

The cases were Lagos (95); Oyo (31); FCT (11); Niger (8); Borno (8); jigawa (6); Kaduna (4); Anambra (3) while Edo, Rivers, Nasarawa and Bauchi had two cases each. Also, Benue and Zamfara had one case each.

In Oyo State, however, Governor Seyi Makinde tweeted that 30 out of the 31 new cases in the state were from the same company, which had already been shut down while the remaining one case was from Egbeda Local Government Area of the state.

Lagos begins chloroquine clinical trial this week, discharges 67 patients

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, has said the state will this week commence the clinical trial treatment of COVID-19 using chloroquine as approved by NAFDAC.

The state, which is the epicentre of the virus in the country, had previously disclosed plans to carry out the chloroquine clinical trial.

Omotoso, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, said, “We are ready for the chloroquine clinical trial because we have just secured all the approvals. The documentation has also been completed. Those that will be used for the trials are ready too. By next week we should be ready for the trial.

“Also, Lagos got a supply of additional 20,000 testing kits, although we were expecting 40,000. It means that the testing will increase now.”

In a related development, a COVID-19 patient was successfully delivered of a baby boy at the Gbagada Isolation Centre in Lagos on Saturday.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, said the delivery of the baby through a caesarean was another pointer that the state’s strategy in combating the virus was working and yielding the desired results. “Both mother and baby are doing well,” he added.

The governor also announced that 67 more patients, comprising 22 females and 45 males including three foreign nationals; two Indians and a Chinese were discharged from four isolation centres in the state on Saturday.

“The patients; 24 from the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba; 22 from Onikan; 11 from Agidingbi; two from Lekki and eight from Lagos University Teaching Hospital isolation centres were discharged having tested negative for COVID-19 in two consecutive readings.”

While commending the dedication of health workers in the state, he said the number of patients successfully managed and discharged from isolation facilities in the state had increased to 608.

He urged the populace to adhere strictly to all safety advisories being the only way to break the chain of the transmission.

Bayelsa discharges two COVID-19 patients

Two COVID-19 patients in Bayelsa State were also discharged on Saturday.

The two patients, who were in the isolation centre at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital in Okolobiri, were linked to the index case that was discharged about a week ago.

A statement signed by the deputy chairman of the state COVID-19 task force and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr Inodu Apoku, said the repeat tests of the remaining cases linked to the index case returned negative.

He said, “These patients have also met all other guidelines of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for discharge. Consequently, they have been discharged on Saturday.

“Therefore, there is only one active COVID-19 case in the state after discharging the index case and the other four linked cases.”

Osinbajo lauds NAFDAC for expedited approval of sanitisers, others

Meanwhile, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Saturday commended NAFDAC for its expedited approval of locally manufactured alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

Osinbajo spoke during the virtual launch of the NAFDAC Automated Product Administration and Monitoring System, an electronic-registration assistance for micro, small and medium enterprises in Abuja.

According to him, the Buhari regime having regard for the role of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises as the powerhouse of the economy and the prime vehicle for job creation feels the economic downturn “very keenly” and is determined to assist in every way possible.

Osinbajo said, “I must therefore thank the Director-General and all the staff members of NAFDAC for this laudable initiative which qualifies, to use the language of the times, as a veritable COVID-19 palliative for micro, small and medium enterprises.

“Permit me to also recognise other ongoing efforts of NAFDAC in the implementation of regulatory measures and interventions to support the fight against the novel coronavirus.

“These include the conditional emergency-use approval for medical devices, expedited approval for local manufacture of alcohol-based hand sanitisers as well as approval of clinical trial protocols for the most promising anti-COVID drugs.”

Osinbajo stated that the event was aimed at assisting and addressing some of the challenges identified during the national MSME clinics.

…announces 80 per cent discount for MSMEs product registration with NAFDAC

The vice-president also announced an 80 per cent discount on the registration of MSMEs products for the next three months.

He said, “In the spirit of these times and as an example of the way business should be done in Nigeria henceforth, MSMEs can now process the registration of their products with NAFDAC in the comfort of their homes at an 80 per cent discounted rate over a period of three months period.

“Apart from the obvious cost-saving it brings, I believe that e-registration will serve our MSMEs especially well at this time of travel restrictions and social distancing. It is a time when we must find new ways of addressing old problems.”

He said now was the time to jettison the culture of reliance on imported products.

States still have very low capacity for isolation –PTF

The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, has hinted that states still have very low capacity for isolation. He, therefore, advised that instead of opting for tents that could be too expensive, they should consider using halls of residence in schools to augment what they have.

Aliyu spoke on Thursday during a webinar hosted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, with the theme, ‘Combating COVID-19: The Nigerian story’.

Other speakers were the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila; Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, and the Chief Executive Officer, Aliko Dangote Foundation and Secretariat Coordinator, Private Sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19, known as CACOVID, Ms Zouera Youssoufou.

When asked the crux of Nigeria’s strategy to combat the raging COVID-19, Aliyu explained that even though Nigeria was going into the exponential phase of the pandemic, testing, isolation and case management were the measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus.

He said, “Our first part of the response really is to test. Unless you are going to be able to take steps to mitigate further transmission, then there is no point in testing, and we are seeing that across the country, isolation facilities are limited.

“Our states still have very low capacity for isolation. Yes we know we are all financially challenged as a government, whether at federal or state levels, but we have got to think outside the box.

“At some point, we will probably be overwhelmed if the trajectory continues, but the only way we can stop the transmission is to move people that are infectious out of those communities and put them in places where they are safe, where they can be monitored and be kept away from the rest of the public so that the pandemic doesn’t continue to spread.

“We are already working quite closely with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. We have already identified states that continue to have a huge gap in their isolation capacity. We are not saying create temporary structures that are very expensive, no. Make use of what you already have. Open up dormitories, schools, identify buildings that can be used, use the philanthropy spirit of Nigerians and get more buildings to set up more centres where you can put people, look after them, feed them properly and you can make them comfortable for the two weeks or so that they need to be isolated until they are no longer infectious.”

Also speaking, Gbajabiamila said there was a need to reduce the cost of governance, adding, “I’m hopeful that whatever we take away from this in terms of social changes will be for the best and we will drop some old habits that were inimical to our development as a nation.”

Fayemi, when responding to a question on what worried him most since the pandemic started, said the sheer uncertainty around livelihoods brought about by the pandemic, especially in a society that is largely informal like Nigeria. He, however, expressed optimism that there would be some opportunities in the adversity.

Also, Youssoufou said there was a need to take advantage of the pandemic to make durable investments in the health sector. “This (health sector) is one area where I think we under-invested so much and the consequence is that today we are scrambling to set up isolation centres and import things we shouldn’t have to import.”

 

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