‘We won’t use Madagascar’s COVID-19 herb unless WHO approves it’ – Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

THE Ministry of Health in Uganda has said they are not in a rush to consider importing and the much-touted Covid-19 herbal remedy from Madagascar.

The statement comes a few days after other countries in Africa, including Tanzania, said they would use the product.

On April 22, the president of Madagascar, Mr Andry Rajoelina, officially launched a local herbal remedy claimed to prevent and cure coronavirus, a move that attracted mixed reactions from members of the public and experts, and backlash from World Health Organisation (WHO).

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the senior spokesperson of Ministry of Health, said the country is still waiting for necessary approval before considering it among the potential treatment for Covid-19.

“We are not considering using it until it is approved by WHO,” he told Daily Monitor yesterday in an interview.

Mr Fredrick Ssekyana, the spokesperson of National Drug Authority (NDA), said the authority is aware and welcomes the development.

“Herbal medicines have been used by humankind for the treatment of various diseases long before the invention of conventional medicine. NDA shall continue to support members of the scientific community and private players involved in research and development of herbal or conventional medicines in Uganda,” he said.

NDA is mandated by the National Drug Policy and Authority Act, (Cap 206) to encourage research and development of herbal medicines.

Mr Ssekyana said there is a procedure for notification of herbals to ensure safety and efficacy to patients. The authority has at least 103 certified herbal products for human use.

Negativity against herbal products

The Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda (PSU) has said the negativity against herbal products by some people is not because they do not work but professional research to document evidence of their effectiveness is the only lacking factor.

The PSU said Africa needs to strengthen evidence generation for natural products in order to build confidence on their capability.

The president of the PSU, Dr Patrick Ogwang, who runs a research centre on herbal medicine at Mbarara University, however, revealed last week in an interview that they were progressing with their search for local herbs that can treat Covid-19.

“We are engaging government to support us to develop herbal medicines that have antiviral effects and boost immunity but up to now no response from government,” he said.

The PSU president also said they were going to develop active ingredients for drugs that are manufactured locally by pharmaceutical companies.

“We are also engaging government to support us to make active ingredients of drugs locally so our industries don’t rely on imports. But up to now no response from government,” Dr Ogwang added.

Herbal

Most drugs sourced from herbs. Dr Samuel Opio, the secretary of the PSU, in an interview yesterday, citing artemether, an antimalarial, and other anticancer drugs, said a number of important drugs in the mainstream pharmaceutical market have been sourced from herbs.

“Coronavirus currently has no cure or vaccine. Therefore there is need to pursue all options available. Between 1940 and 2002, 54 per cent of anticancer drugs developed were from natural products.

“Sixty-four newly synthesised hypertensives have origins in natural products,” he said.