166 Covid-19 related clinical trials taking place in Africa
London, Sep. 21, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Africa hosts the second largest covid-19 related clinical trials in the world after the United States.
Data from the website www.clinicaltrials.org shows that there are 166 Covid-19 trials taking place in Africa, as compared to 710 in the United States alone, and 107 in Canada. South America has 162, China 60 and India 181.
Out of the 1,056 Covid-19 drug trials going on globally, DNDI indicates that Africa is the site for 56 trials.
Uganda, Kenya and DRC are currently participating in trials for one drug each, as compared to Egypt with 36 trials, Nigeria 17, and South Africa with eight, Kenya 4 and Ghana 3 among others
Currently, there are 1,138,663 confirmed #COVID19 cases on the African continent – with more than 1.1 million recoveries & 33,000 deaths cumulatively.
The World Health Organization on Saturday endorsed a protocol for testing African herbal medicines as potential treatments for the coronavirus and other epidemics.
COVID-19 has raised the issue of using traditional medicines to battle contemporary diseases, and the endorsement clearly encouraged testing with criteria similar to those used for molecules developed by labs in Asia, Europe or the Americas.
It came months after a bid by the president of Madagascar to promote a drink based on artemisia, a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment, was met with widespread scorn.
On Saturday, WHO experts and colleagues from two other organisations “endorsed a protocol for phase III clinical trials of herbal medicine for COVID-19 as well as a charter and terms of reference for the establishment of a data and safety monitoring board for herbal medicine clinical trials,” a statement said.
“Phase III clinical trials are pivotal in fully assessing the safety and efficacy of a new medical product,” it noted.
“If a traditional medicine product is found to be safe, efficacious and quality-assured, WHO will recommend (it) for a fast-tracked, large-scale local manufacturing,” Prosper Tumusiime, a regional WHO director, was quoted as saying.
WHO’s partners are the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs.
“The onset of COVID-19, like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, has highlighted the need for strengthened health systems and accelerated research and development programmes, including on traditional medicines,” Tumusiime said.
He did not refer specifically to the Madagascar drink COVID-Organics, also called CVO, that President Andry Rajoelina has pitched as a cure for the virus, however.
It has has been widely distributed in Madagascar and sold to several other countries, mainly in Africa.
In May, WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti told media that African governments had committed in 2000 to taking “traditional therapies” through the same clinical trials as other medication.
“I can understand the need, the drive to find something that can help,” Moeti said. “But we would very much like to encourage this scientific process in which the governments themselves made a commitment.”
Prof Kenneth Ngure, a lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), said Africa has scientific and moral reasons to participate in vaccine trials, so that when the vaccines are discovered the findings can also be generalisable to African populations.
Prof Ngure who was speaking at a recent virtual pre-conference hosted by the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (Mesha), and attended by experts and science journalists from Africa added that populations that participate in trials are usually the ones that are prioritised to receive the vaccines once they become available.
“We should avoid doublespeak. On the one hand, we do not want to participate in vaccine trials and on the other we are demanding to get the vaccines,” he said.
“Remember most of the vaccines and drugs that we use in Africa today had the trials conducted in the west, it is only recently that Africa is getting more requests to conduct these studies because it has built its human, regulatory and infrastructural capacity.”
On her part, Dr Borna Nyaoke-Anoke, manager, Clinical Trials at the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative/Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (DNDI/GARDP) said Africa could benefit from lower prices by participating in the ongoing Covid-19 vaccine development efforts
Dr Nyaoke-Anoke said countries that opted out of vaccine trials will likely buy them at higher prices once they are developed.
“It does not make economic sense for pharmaceutical firms in the north that includes Europe and America, to test and develop a vaccine in their home countries at very high costs and then sell it here at a price similar to the one in their home countries. It is even harder to expect them to give discounted rates on the vaccines to African countries,” she said.