Plant used to make Madagascar COVID-19 drink exists in Nigeria, says health minister

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The Nigerian Government Thursday said preliminary results of the analysis of the Madagascar herbal drink by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRID) showed that it is the same as the plant Artemisia annua, with proven efficacy in malaria treatment.

He noted that the plant is grown on NIPRID farm and that further research on its efficacy will be conducted when the grants for research is approved.

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President Muhammadu Buhari, on 15th May 2020, received the delivery of the country’s allocation of the Madagascar anti-coronavirus drink and he promised to ‘listen’ to science before allowing traditional or any new medicines to be administered on Nigerians.

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Speaking at the briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on on Thursday in Abuja, Minister of , Dr Osagie Ehanire said one of the components of the Madagascar mixture was imported by the Nigerian Government some years ago and cultivated it for the purpose of using it for production of anti-malarial medicine.

He explained that the specie of the plant available in the country has a very high concentration of artemisinin with a very high yield, adding that further research will reveal the efficacy of the plant in the treatment of the coronavirus disease.

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He explained that the move is to assure users and caregivers of reduced bottlenecks and improved efficiency in our response adding that this would be scaled up to other states of the Federation.

The World Organization in May advised governments to clinically test the Madagascar herbal drink.

“We would caution and advise countries against adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy,” WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said in a press briefing on May 7, calling on Madagascar to take the drink “through a clinical trial”.

Moeti said that in 2000, African governments had committed to taking “traditional therapies” through the same clinical trials as other medication.

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“I can understand the need, the drive to find something that can help,” Moeti said. “But we would very much like to encourage this scientific process in which the governments themselves made a commitment.”

But Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina has consistently defended the efficacy of the tonic.

“The WHO has indicated that artemisia could lead to a cure for coronavirus,” the president said, promising to submit the drink to clinical trials.

Madagascar currently has confirmed a total 2,403 cases of the virus, recorded 24 deaths with 1,040 already discharged.

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