BY JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH, PATIENCE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja and ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, Port Harcourt
Barely 24 hours after the World Health Organisation (WHO) suspended all clinical trials for hydroxychloroquine as potential treatment for COVID-19, the federal government maintained yesterday that the trial will continue in Nigeria.
The Nigerian government, through it National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), contended that there are proven records that hydroxychloroquine has been effective in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
WHO had on Monday said it has temporarily suspended the clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19 following safety concerns.
It said the decision followed a study in The Lancet that the use of the drug on COVID-19 patients could increase their likelihood of dying.
Chloroquine, a synthetic drug introduced in the 1940s, is a member of an important series of chemically related agents known as quinoline derivatives. Hydroxychloroquine is a related compound that was introduced in 1955.
But noting that Nigeria will continue with the drug, director-general of NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye, who spoke during an interview on Television Continental (TVC) yesterday, explained that hydroxychloroquine is most effective in patients at the mild stage of the virus.
He stated: “There is data to prove that hydroxychloroquine worked for many COVID-19 patients. Therefore, we would continue our own clinical trials in Nigeria.
“Hydroxychloroquine has been proved to work at a mild stage. So the potency depends on the severity of the disease in the patient’s body”.
There has been controversy trailing the use of chloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients, with United States President Donald Trump admitting last week that he had been using hydroxychloroquine to protect himself against COVID-19.
However, Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force (PTF) on coronavirus at a daily briefing warned Nigerians against using the drug.
It said the drug has not been declared a cure for the disease and further warned of the possibility of chloroquine poisoning if one indulges in self-medication with the drug.
Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, who was also an index case of COVID-19 in his state, told journalists early this month that he was treated with chloroquine, zithromax, and vitamin c during his successful treatment for the disease.
Clinical Trial Of Russian Drug, Favipiravir, In Final Stage
Meanwhile, a Russian-made drug, Favipiravir, topped as potential treatment for COVID-19 is a step closer to being released after moving into the final stage of clinical trials.
Favipiravir is being tested by Russian pharmaceutical investment firm, ChemRar, with the support of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
RDIF had announced in a statement on Thursday, 22 May, 2020, that clinical trials have moved to the final stage in which it is tested on a randomised sample of COVID-19 patients.
The drug has several advantages, including significantly reducing patient recovery time, and its availability in tablet form, making it easier to use, according to an earlier statement from the RDIF.
“We noticed a faster improvement in the general health and clinical condition of the patients taking Favipiravir, which may lead to earlier discharge from hospital and reduce the burden on medical facilities by 30-40 per cent in the near future,” Elena Yakubova, CEO of ChemRar Pharma, said in a statement.
The final stage of trials was approved to begin on May 21, involving 330 patients, the statement noted.
Earlier results had suggested that the drug has no new or previously unreported side effects and brought down the body temperature of a majority, 68 per cent, of patients twice as fast as patients not taking favipiravir.
Complete elimination of coronavirus took on average around four days with the drug, compared to around nine days with standard treatment.
“Thanks to the administration of Favipiravir, most patients are not infectious as early as the fifth day of treatment, which is critical to stop the epidemic and ensure a swift return to normal life,” Yakubova added.
After four days of treatment with the drug, 65 per cent of a test group of 40 patients were found to test negative for the virus. By day 10, the number of patients testing negative had reached 35.
“We continue to receive promising data during the clinical trials of Favipiravir. At least 85 per cent of patients in the control groups completely recovered from coronavirus within 10 days after the start of the treatment with the drug. We expect a positive final result of the trial, which will enable us to complete the registration procedure for the drug in Russia,” RDIF’S CEO Kirill Dmitriev said in the statement.
Why Africa Has Least Cases, Deaths In The world – WHO
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has given reason why Africa had been able to manage COVID-19 against the odds.
The global health body said that the continent has hitherto dealt with several diseases and performed well.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there have been discussions about how Africa has been able to relatively contain coronavirus.
Analysts have cited inadequate medical equipment, health facilities and compared the same with other continents that boast of better systems.
At an online briefing, WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, hailed Africa for having only 1.5% of the world’s reported cases and less than 0.1% of deaths.
He said, “Africa is the least-affected region globally in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths reported to WHO.”
The DG said, “The continent has been spared the scale of outbreaks we have seen in other regions.”
Ghebreyesus noted that African countries “garnered a great deal of experience from tackling infectious diseases like polio, measles, Ebola, yellow fever, influenza and many more”.
He further commended the rapid response by the African Union (AU) headed by South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa.
The WHO said the early set-up of a leaders’ coalition was “key to rapidly accelerating COVID-19 preparedness efforts and issuing comprehensive control measures.”
Nigeria’s Simon Agwale Leads Africa’s COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing Initiative
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s vaccinologist, Dr Simon Agwale, has been unanimously elected to lead COVID-19 vaccine task team of the African Vaccine Manufacturing Initiative towards building the continent’s vaccine manufacturing capacities and solutions to the coronavirus pandemic in the region.
The body, drawn across the continent, mobilises Africa through advocacy to manufacture preventive and therapeutic vaccines and other biological products against diseases of public health importance; encourage partnerships between African vaccine manufacturers and biological, and other stakeholders; attract and secure skills and resources for establishing vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa; and promote scientific and technical capacity building of Africa’s vaccine manufacturers in production and distribution of vaccines and other biological products.
The meeting resolved that vaccine access remains a critical risk for African countries, adding that the concept of ‘vaccine nationalism’ would be kicked in ‘where countries look after themselves first before making vaccine doses available to other countries’.
The resolution also includes setting up a dedicated fund to support African vaccine manufacturing capacity on the continent with a ‘flexible procedure to produce vaccines other than COVID-19 vaccines’.
Agwale said, “This is timely because, according to an article by Health Times, ‘in much of the global Covid-19 conversation, Africa is barely mentioned’. But the risks which the COVID-19 crisis brings are even greater in Africa, and those risks will be compounded if Africa is marginalised in the global response.”
A former researcher at the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Agwale is the founder/CEO of Innovative Biotech, Keffi, Nasarawa State and the USA.
He is at the forefront of shaping the future direction of vaccine development worldwide. He was West Africa‘s representative on HIV/AIDS for Developing Countries Coordinating Committee (DCCC) at European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Programme (EDCTP) where he chaired the African Scientists Committee (DCCC).
He represented Africa at local and international scientific fora, including assignment as temporary adviser to WHO/UNAIDS. Dr Agwale served on the European Commission Framework Programme 6 (FP6) and FP7 grant review committee, and was also a grant reviewer for the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). In addition, he was a member of the European HIV Vaccine Special Working Group.
Furthermore, he was a member of the West African Consortium (WANETAM) to prepare West Africa for the conduct of clinical trials of drugs/vaccines against TB, AIDS and Malaria.
Wike Replaces Lockdown With Dusk-to-dawn Curfew
Meanwhile, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has relaxed the 24-hour total lockdown of Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas of the state.
Accordingly, the governor announced the imposition of night curfew in all the 23 local government areas of the state from 8:00pm to 6:00am.
Wike noted that the State Security Council takes all decisions in the prosecution of the Coronavirus pandemic in the state.
Speaking when the executive of the Nigeria Hotel Association, paid him a courtesy visit at Government House, Port Harcourt, the governor stated that he has never taken any unilateral decision.
He noted that all decisions taken by the state government were for the overall good and interest of the Rivers people as no right thinking government would deliberately take decisions that would negatively affect the lives of the people.
Wike said, „I don‘t take decisions alone in the fight against COVID-19. All decisions are taken by the State Security Council and they are for the overall interest of Rivers people.
„You know people applaud government decisions when it suits them but when it does not favour them they say it is politically motivated.
„Rivers State government does not have anything against hoteliers in the state, but decided to shut down their activities because some cases of COVID-19 were recorded in hotels.“
He also blamed the hoteliers for failing to assist government in providing relevant information regarding those that test positive of the coronavirus in their hotels.
Wike continued: „Adequate information would have helped the state ministry of Health and other relevant agencies to carry out proper contact tracing.
„It is not possible that the state government will intentionally close down hotels. But what I see is that people play politics with everything.
„The demolition of Prodest Hotel and Etemeteh Hotel in Eleme local government area by the state government became necessary because the owners failed to comply with Executive Order 7.“
Meanwhile, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has announced the imposition of night curfew in all the 23 local government areas of the state from 8:00pm to 6:00am.
Wike who disclosed this in a statewide broadcast in Port Harcourt yesterday alleged plot by hoodlums to cause havoc in Khana, Eleme, Gokana, Tai and Oyigbo local government areas of the state.
The governor said, „In continuation of our struggle against the spread of covid-19 in our State, we had planned to resume the total lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt local government areas from Wednesday 27th May 2020.
„However, after a comprehensive review of the measures we have taken and further considerations placed before us by well-meaning members of the public, the State Security Council has decided to cancel the proposed lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt local government areas of the state.
„Finally, our intelligence has intercepted a clandestine plan by some criminal elements led by Bobosky to cause security breaches in the State by instigating violence and burning down churches in Khana, Eleme, Gokana, Tai and Oyigbo local government areas of the state.
„We want to assure all residents that the State Government is fully ready and prepared to deal with the situation and continue to guarantee the protection of lives and property throughout the state.“
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