Cameroon adopts controversial dual therapy of anti-malaria, antibiotic drugs to treat coronavirus patients
London, May 4, 2020 (AltAfrica)- Cameroon has adopted a dual therapy, a controversial mixture of anti-malaria and antibiotic drugs for the treatment of coronavirus patients in the war torn West African country
The French speaking African country adopted the strange dual therapy, a combination of chloroquine (an antimalarial) and azithromycin (an antibiotic) drugs to treat patients with Covid-19, a treatment first proposed by French Professor, Didier Raoult
But despite the ravaging effects of the virus, France has shown scepticism regarding a dual therapy combining chloroquine or its derivative hydroxychloroquine, and azithromycin used for lung and ENT infections and angina to treat patients suffering from Covid-19.
On April 22, France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran said the most recent publications from clinical studies were not in favour of the dual therapy. Six days later, during a speech on France’s strategy for lifting its Covid-19 lockdown, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe clearly reaffirmed the government’s position: “To date, no treatment has proven effective.”
But while some French professionals consider the treatment too toxic and doubt its effectiveness, Cameroon, an African country, already accustomed to anti-malarial drugs, has decided in favour of the researcher and professor’s dual therapy
In mid-March, as the epidemic began to spread across Cameroon and European countries, the first video of Raoult selling the effectiveness of his dual therapy protocol was widely shared on Cameroonian social networks, raising great hopes. In a country where part of the population still has major difficulties in accessing healthcare, the prospect of a treatment based on accessible, inexpensive and familiar drugs appeared to be a blessing.
On March 27, in a memorandum from Cameroon’s Ministry of Health, the country’s scientific council proposed the widespread use of chloroquine treatment. Judged “promising”, the treatment could make it possible to reduce viral load and contagiousness, even if the group of scientists acknowledged a “lack of conclusive data”.
Finally, the council wished to combine the treatment, as recommended by Raoult, with azithromycin to avoid the risks of secondary infections. On April 9, the protocol was validated for the management of all types of patients with positive Covid-19 tests, from asymptomatic cases to patients suffering from severe infections.
“With the arrival of the first cases, the clinicians were tempted to try the protocols themselves, and it was necessary to give clear instructions quickly to organise the response,” explained Dr Alain Etoundi, director of the fight against disease, epidemics and pandemics at Cameroon’s Ministry of Health, to FRANCE 24.
“The question of the supposed toxicity of chloroquine has been addressed and dismissed by the council. So far, the results that are coming to us seem satisfactory, but the evaluation of the treatment is ongoing,” he said.
Professor William Ngatchou, a cardiovascular surgeon at the General Hospital in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon told FRANCE 24 that the effectiveness of dual therapy has been proven: “It’s been almost two months that this protocol has been in use for patients with Covid-19. I myself have noticed significant improvements in patients with its use, and the debate about the side effects of chloro-quine seems very exaggerated to me.”
Seven weeks after the detection of the first Covid-19 case on Cameroonian, there are more than 2,050 confirmed cases in the country. The progress of the virus seems, as in many African countries, to be much slower than indicated by scientific modelling.
Nevertheless, Etoundi said the treatment is only one element of a global health policy and it is far too early to claim victory: “We are in a phase where the disease is on the rise and the peak has not yet been reached. Anything is still possible.”
Cameroon is beset with two violent conflicts. The first, between the government and separatists from the English-speaking minority, has killed over 3,000 people and displaced 600,000. In the Anglophone regions, 800,000 children are out of school and one in three of the four million people are in need of aid.
This article is a translation of the original in French.