When health experts met to discuss fundings from a Twaweza study on use of herbal remedies at the weekend, Uganda’s Covid19 drug Covidex took centre stage.
Developed by Mbarara University of Science and Technology (Must) Pharmacy Department led by Prof Patrick Engeu Ogwang, Covidex is currently sold on the black market, according to reports.
Medicines regulator National Drug Authority (NDA) has warned the public against the use of unauthorized Covidex.
Yet the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda (PSU) and some health experts say the drug is effective in Covid19 treatment, and ought to be authorized for emergency use.
They argue that Prof Ogwang included natural herbs berberine and Waburgia Ugandensis, both know for treatment of diseases related to Covid19.
PSU president Pamela Acci admits that Covidex presents a moral and ethical question for drug approval but the society was working with Prof Ogwang to ensure the authentication process is fasttracked.
“We have this herbal formulation called Covidex which of course we see that it has berberine, and berberine is active against Covid. The product has been formulated but for lack of a better word, this product we found it in the market and those who have used it have said they are getting healed in the situation where we don’t have alternative medicine to cure this disease,” Acci was quoted as saying.
“So we had a moral dilemma and moral obligation; should you stop the manufacturer and use of this medicine because you have not had all the clinical trial processes done while there are people who are benefiting from this formulation?”
Dr Grace Nambatya, the director of research at the Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute, even has a testimony of a relative, aged 79, who used the drug and registered better results.
Nambatya expressed confidence in Ogwang’s expertise, making it clear she wouldn’t doubt Covidex.
“The proprietor was my staff member, I know him very well and I respect him, he has published, he has put things on the market,” Nambatya said.
Yet despite Covidex offering great relief to his relative in ICU, Nambatya makes an observation that emphasizes the need for clinical trials, and NDA approval.
“We have a relative who has been in ICU and we are a big family, so people come with interventions and one of them came with Covidex. On the label at least one of the ingredients is Warburgia and I know it very well. Of course, there are some other plants, but once I saw Warburgia, I knew this must be effective,” said Nambatya.
“But now for me, what I noted this was a patient in ICU and when it [Covidex] was put in the nose for this 79-year patient, it was really bad,” she revealed.
“In Covidex, there is inflammation and dryness, people talk of Covid but when you have been near a patient and your own there is that dryness of membranes, and I think if something has Warbugia and it is dosed into the membrane, Warbugia has a peppery taste for those who know the plant, you chew the plant and it has chilli. In the mouth, the patient felt fine and the patient improved. Maybe this dosage form should not be administered in the nose because of the dryness there.”
The NDA may take months to approve Covidex, yet cases and deaths are increasing, and so is Ugandans’ confidence in herbal medicine.
Conducted between July to August 2020, and December to January 2021, Twaweza’s mobile survey results indicate that nearly half of Kampala residents are convinced herbal concoctions can heal one from Covid19.
Additional reporting: Courtesy