The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has given reasons why it is yet to approve any herbal medicine for the treatment of COVID-19.
This was contained in a statement signed by the agency resident’s Media Consultant, Olusayo Akintola, and issued to newsmen on Sunday, in Abuja.
The statement quoted Moji Adeyeye, NAFDAC Director-General, as saying that “no single drug has been found yet to cure COVID -19.”
Adeyeye also warned Nigerians against excessive consumption of onions and garlic with the intention to cure COVID-19.
In her words, “If you eat too much your breath will be smelling and nobody will want to stay by you.”
She said that medicinal products available now could only help ease symptoms and up the odds of survival.
The D-G also warned Nigerian researchers and other herbal medicine practitioners to desist from parading unverified medicine for the virus.
According to her, any product without NAFDAC approval for the cure of COVID-19 is null and void, adding that such an act was a violation of the national regulatory authorities and a breach of protocols.
She admitted that onions or garlic or any of the natural fruits that we take have antioxidants and nutrients that can help us feel better, adding that people might have been using it and they get better.
However, If it is not documented, it cannot be recognised by NAFDAC for COVID-19. They work on our cells to keep people healthier, but not to cure COVID-19. They help our body to function better. There is no cure for COVID -19 yet.
More so, they may boost the immunity and the person may not be easily susceptible to infection but even with that, you still have to protect yourself.
If you eat garlic and onion and you don’t use a face mask you will get COVID-19. If you are in a bad environment and you don’t wash your hands regularly, you will get COVID-19.
Everything has to be put together. The University of Jos said that there was herbal medicine, whether it is tea or whatever, that can cure COVID-19. They linked it with the treatment of COVID-19 and did the packaging.
The Agency further mentioned that they wrote a letter to warn the academia about their claim saying it hasn’t gone through their listing process.
It was also said that they tried to sell it to their staff which is a violation of NAFDAC’s regulatory policies.
The statement further read that nobody should say anything can cure COVID without going through the NAFDAC listing process however, the research into herbal medicine by academia is normal.
It is now for the academia to also recognise the national regulatory authority established to safeguard the safety of the Nigerian populace by ensuring that the product they are working on has to go through NAFDAC, Mrs Adeyeye added.
Although there have been one or two cases where the University of Jos product was being encouraged to be used by people without going through NAFDAC regardless the university was supposed to go through the national regulatory authority and pave the way for NAFDAC to declare it safe for consumption.
The DG insisted that her agency must approve the clinical trial protocol, stressing that if they don’t do that and go ahead to market and sell their product, such an act would be a violation of regulatory procedures.
According to her, some people might have been using it and they got better but without being approved scientifically and documented, the Agency may not be able to guarantee its safety for human consumption.
She recalled that NAFDAC set up a herbal medicine product committee in March 2019 before the pandemic broke out, to advance research in herbal medicine.
Mrs Adeyeye said the goal for such an idea was to make sure that the herbalist and the researcher were collaborating so that whatever the herbalist knows from ancestral history will be backed up by research.
Further explanation stated that the collaboration with the researcher would enable such herbal medicine to be advanced and listed by NAFDAC if found safe for consumption.
During the pandemic, there were lots of assertions that there are herbal medicines that could be used to treat symptoms of COVID-19 but the D-G pointed out that there was no single medicine identified yet.
While there are herbal medicines that could alleviate symptoms of COVID, NAFDAC has not granted registration of approval for any of such.
If NAFDAC approves such medicines for listing, it means that it’s been tested and deemed safe to use because NAFDAC cannot say herbal medicine can treat COVID-19 until a clinical trial is done.
Right now, no single herbal medicine has gone through the full clinical trial the way the clinical trial is supposed to be done, she added.
According to her, to do an official clinical trial, you must write a protocol, pass it through the National Health Research Ethical Committee (NHREC), and it must be passed through NAFDAC.
Adeleye further confirmed that the agency has not given any pass mark as regards COVID-19 herbal medicine but the agency has approved some herbal medicines that they claim can alleviate some of the symptoms of COVID-19.
She said some of the approved herbal medicine which they claim can alleviate COVID-19 symptoms only work as immune boosters.
Consequently, Adeyeye pointed out that such herbal medicines may prevent one from getting the disease nevertheless as far as NAFDAC is concerned, it has not approved any medicine to treat COVID-19.
Though they have approved medicines that can alleviate symptoms and relieve people of some symptoms of COVID-19 when the product is listed then the clinical trial may start.
It takes a lot of money to do clinical trials. The University of Jos has been given the approval to commence clinical trials of their products which is yet to commence.
The DG further disclosed that many herbal products have been submitted for federal government grants because most of the herbal practitioners lack the required wherewithal to do clinical trials.
She said many of these herbal products were being subjected to review by different agencies of government in the country but in terms of going through clinical trials and official protocols, none has come through yet.
It was also said that such herbal products can be used during the clinical trial to investigate whether they could be effective for COVID-19.