PUNCH reports that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Thursday indicated that Nigeria was making headway in getting local cures for COVID-19.
The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, gave this indication at the task force press conference in Abuja.
He said the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Department of the Federal Ministry of Health had forwarded some of the claims for COVID-19 cure to the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control.
According to the SGF, some of the claims for COVID-19 cures have met preliminary requirements, but the NAFDAC will evaluate them for listing.
Also on Thursday, NAFDAC met with alternative medical practitioners and researchers on the listing of herbal medicines for COVID-19 treatment.
According to the agenda of the meeting, issues such as COVID-19 and herbal medicines as well as NAFDAC food and chemical laboratory testing were discussed.
There were indications also Thursday that the Federal Ministry of Health had directed NAFDAC to carry out necessary procedures for the assessment of a plant-based cough mixture to treat COVID-19 patients.
The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mashi Abdullahi, issued the directive in a memo with reference TCAM/077/I/65, addressed to the Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye.
The document, dated April 28, 2020, was titled, ‘Formulation of a Phyto-Medicine-Based Cough Mixture/Syrup for the Management of COVID-19 Patients by Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine Department of the Ministry.’
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Wednesday, said the local medicines in Nigeria had not been tested and could be poisonous.
FG directs NAFDAC to evaluate local COVID-19 cures
On Thursday, the task force Chairman, Mustapha, said the PTF would continue to support efforts to invent a local cure for coronavirus, adding that the ministry of health had started evaluating some claims.
He stated, “For some time now, there have been claims of inventions and cures related to COVID-19. The PTF, as part of its mandate, remains supportive of and receptive to outcomes of research. It, however, finds it imperative to reiterate its position on the need for such discoveries to undergo the scientific validation processes.
“The PTF is aware that the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Department of the Federal Ministry of Health has been evaluating such claims and forwarded some that have met the preliminary requirements to the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control to carry out the necessary procedures for listing.”
Also, the ministry of health in its letter to the NAFDAC DG noted there was no definite treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.
It stated, “This has necessitated countries to look for solutions from within and Nigeria is no exception. It is worthy to note that Nigeria is blessed with medicinal plants which could be exploited.
“It is heartwarming to note that the Department of the TCAM has taken the pains to research into scientific materials to come up with a formulation intended for the management of cough in COVID-19 and other cough-related infections.”
According to the ministry, the formulation is a Cov-herbal cough mixture.
It said, “Interestingly, all the ingredients that make up the formulations are medicinal plants that are widely used as food materials and medicines.
“They include Allium sativa (garlic); Allium cepa (onions); Zingiber officinale (ginger): Piper guineense (West African Black Pepper); and Adansonia digitata (baobab fruit). The innovation here is the composition of the formulation.
“These medicinal plants have documented scientific evidence of long use for the management of cough and other respiratory infections, with medicinal properties of mucoiytic, antitussive, expectorant, soothing, demulcent, anti- inflammatory and antiviral effects.”
The ministry stated that it was determined to “walk the talk” in the promotion and integration of herbal medicine into the health care delivery system.
“In view of the foregoing and the desire of the ministry to showcase to the public a product that is 100 per cent sourced locally, you are requested to carry out the necessary procedures for listing.”
In an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, NAFDAC Director of Public Affairs, Dr Abubakar Jimoh, explained herbal drugs were listed after it had been confirmed that they were not toxic.
He, however, said that such listed drugs were not usually given full registration.
In a related development, the leadership of NAFDAC met with 35 players in the herbal and alternative medicine sector as part of efforts to find a treatment to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virtual meeting, which was convened by the Director General of NAFDAC, had in attendance over 35 players in the herbal medicine sector including two professors of Pharmacognosis, Maurice Iwu and Anthony Elujoba, who was once an acting Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.
Some others at the meeting were Prof. Martins Emeje of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development; the Managing Director, Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc, Matthew Azoji; and Prof. McDonald Edu of the Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, University of Benin.
Others are Executive Director, Yemkem International Group, Mr Akinyemi Ayeni; and Dr. Oluwatobi Abiola, Managing Director of Ablat Nigeria Limited, manufacturers of Yoyo Bitters.
The meeting also had in attendance representatives of the Ministry of Trade and Investment as well as the Department of Traditional and Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the Ministry of Health.
The meeting was the third edition of the Nigerian Herbal Medicine Product Committee symposium which seeks to explore herbal solutions to health challenges in the country
However, the NAFDAC DG said only one firm had so far approached the agency for approval and it was for the treatment of the symptoms of COVID-19, not the virus itself.
Adeyeye said all claims must go through necessary testing before clinical trials can commence.
Firm seeking approval for drug for treating COVID-19 symptoms – NAFDAC
She said, “There is no known cure for COVID-19 right now. Only one company has sent an application to NAFDAC for approval and it is for treatment for symptoms of COVID-19.
“NAFDAC will check for animal toxicity, microbial content and then the product will be listed. The procedure must be followed strictly.”
The Registrar in charge of Trademarks, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Safiu Adamu, also said there was a need to strengthen the trademark laws so as to promote investment.
PTF seeks improved security at isolation centres
Meanwhile, the SGF, at the PTF briefing, called on state governments to beef up security at isolation centres to prevent escape of those placed under observations.
The directive for security beef up followed reports of protests by some people at isolation centres over allegations of poor welfare and lack of medical attention by the government.
Mustapha said, “The PTF has become aware of a number of challenges associated with management of the isolation centres. These have manifested in the form of protests over welfare, absconding from centres and loud complaints based on the assumption by persons under observation, that drugs must be administered.
“The first two are unhealthy developments capable of undermining the containment measures and putting the lives of care managers and frontline workers at risk.
“Similarly, persons in isolation are encouraged to follow the direction and instructions of the experts during their stay as treatment to be administered would largely depend on the evaluation of the doctor.
“We, however, urge all state governments to continue to pay attention to the welfare of people in isolation and for security agencies to provide adequate security around such facilities to prevent escape.”
The SGF decried the disobedience of the guidelines issued for the relaxation of the lockdown, saying it was capable of undermining efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The SGF said reports from various parts of the country on Wednesday indicated high level of non-compliance with the ban on inter-state travels with a high number of vehicles finding their way across many state borders despite the curfew/ border restrictions.
He also noted that the lack of respect for timing and the curfew resulted in heavy traffic gridlock where many motorists spent the night following the enforcement of the curfew.
Mustapha frowned on increasing level of abuse of exemption granted to vehicles conveying specified goods, stating that many had continued to hide passengers with the intention of transporting them across state boundaries.
He added that the continual transportation of Almajiriai across state borders was still evident.
The SGF warned security agencies against compromising the guidelines and interstate curfew, directing state Police Commissioners to step up monitoring teams.
Members of the task force will on Friday (today) meet the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, and other top security chiefs in Abuja.
The meeting is expected to centre on how to ensuring proper enforcement of the various guidelines released by the task force as part of the gradual ease of the lockdown declared to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, dropped the hint on Thursday at the daily briefing of the task force.
The task force also issued new guidelines for small and medium enterprises to reopen while also tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
These include staggering work hours and educating employees on symptoms and response.
The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who spoke during the daily PTF briefing in Abuja on Thursday, stated that COVID-19 had had hugely impacted the economy of the country.
Ihekweazu said the economic impact, inadvertently, also had an effect on health “because if people are not able to work, they are not able to earn a living and they are not able to fulfil all their health needs.”
The NCDC boss said, “So, we have recently published new guidelines for businesses and employers in Nigeria. This can be accessed on covid19.ncdc.gov.ng. These guidelines offer specific recommendations to businesses on how to exist safely in their own sectors.”
21 Labs Operational
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, in his remarks, stated that 21 laboratories nationwide were operational for COVID-19 testing as the PTF worked to drive up demand.
Ehanire said labs in Kano were directed to work in shifts to reduce the turnaround time for testing and enable faster return of results.
Govt sets up inter-ministerial team on inventions
A high level inter-ministerial team comprising officials of the ministries of science and technology and health is to be established as part of efforts to rid Nigeria of coronavirus .
The decision to set up the committee was the outcome of a meeting between the two ministries on Thursday, where Ehanire, observed that coronavirus was ‘no longer a big man’s disease’, contrary to the alleged views of many Nigerians.
The meeting was attended, National Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu and National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Dr. Obi Adigwe .
BUK loose another Professor
A senior lecturer with the Department of Physical and Health Education, Bayero University Kano, Prof Monsuru Lasun Emiola, is dead.
He died on Wednesday night at the university clinic after a brief illness.
A member of staff of the Information and publication unit of the university, Dr Lamara Garba confirmed the death of the deceased to The PUNCH in Kano on Thursday.
He said Emiola, a senior lecturer with the Physical and Health Education Department, was an indigene of Oyo State.