Dr. Nura Alkali
A herbal remedy from Madagascar – called Covid Organics – is said to cure Covid-19. It was developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research, but much of the world knew about it only last month when Madagascar’s president lambasted the World Health Organization for refusing to endorse it.
Since then, people with no knowledge of medicine or pharmacology have accused western interests of ‘undermining’ African medicine. African politicians heard them, and have rushed to import the drug.
This post aims to explain the issues at stake to help people make informed opinions on not only Madagascar’s drug, but also local drugs being touted by Nigerians as Covid-19 treatments and vaccines.
Medicine is a science which uses logic to establish facts. There is no room for emotions in medicine, meaning if Dr. A claims Drug A can treat hypertension or diabetes, then Dr. A has to prove that by well-established scientific methods and make it public to allow others replicate the results.
If Drs. B, C and D followed those methods and found Drug A to be useless or harmful, then the weight of evidence is against using Drug A to treat hypertension or diabetes. This rule applies to every drug, whether it treats Covid-19, cancer or cholera.
And that was the last stage of drug development. Earlier stages involve a lab experiment (on guinea pigs, chimpanzees, etc,) to establish efficacy in treating disease, another lab experiment to establish safety, and then a field trial on healthy humans to further confirm safety.
The process is tedious, but it has saved human lives. What is the point in a new diabetes drug that is effective but kills half of patients through kidney damage or liver failure? It was this poor understanding of medicine which led President Trump to recommend antiseptic injections as treatments for Covid-19.
Did Madagascar follow established protocol? The WHO denies knowledge of any data supporting the effectiveness of their drug. In short, Covid Organics lacks scientific proof, just like the loudspeakers touting a single drug that treats diabetes, asthma, peptic ulcer, infertility and fibroids in our cities on daily basis.
Perhaps Covid Organics is effective, perhaps not. But medicine is based on factual evidence, and without that, no sensible physician will recommend the drug to Covid-19 patients in Nigeria or anywhere else.