Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Signals from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) indicate that a breakthrough in the development of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus may be reached sooner than expected.
NCDC, in a tweet, on Sunday, confirmed that there there are many drugs being used in clinical trials even as scientists work assiduously towards finding a cure for COVID-19.
“Some of the trials have shown promising results in laboratory studies but have not yet been proven in humans. The best option for now is to avoid self-medication as it may lead to complications and death.”
In the cause of daily media briefing by the presidential task force on the control of COVID-19, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said that there is no specific drug(s) being used to treat COVID-19 patients.
He said that being a viral disease, that medical doctors administer different drugs to fight the virus and each patient’s response to the drug depends on several factors. He was hopeful that scientists would soon discover a vaccine that would be effective against the coronavirus.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) had recently ordered the mass production of Chloroquine for emergency stock for possible clinical trial treatment for COVID-19 cases.
Chloroquine was reported to have demonstrated marked efficacy and acceptable safety in treating COVID-19 associated pneumonia in multi-centre clinical trials conducted in China.
The study, according to NAFDAC, involved 10 hospitals in Wuhan, Jingzhou, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Ningbo, and is reported to be superior in controlling pneumonia associated with COVID-19 and shortening the cause of the disease.
NAFDAC Director-General Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, in a statement, expressed fear that sourcing the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) chloroquine phosphate could be difficult because the use of the drug was discontinued in Nigeria long ago.
“Some weeks ago, I approached a local drug manufacturing company in Nigeria (May and Baker), a member of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN), whose flagship product in the past was chloroquine, to make a batch of the drug for emergency stock.
“The company had NAFDAC approval for the production of the drug as an antimalarial many years ago before the discontinuation. But my fear was possible difficulty in getting the API due to the fact that the drug has been discontinued long ago.
“But a few days after, they called that they were able to get the API, and I asked them to manufacture a batch for emergency stock just in case more people become exposed and infected with the virus. The batch has been manufactured and the company plans to make more batches if needed.”
NAFDAC, however, advised Nigerians to desist from its use without the guidance of a medical doctor or clinician for cases of clinical trial treatment of COVID-19.
“It has side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, blurred vision, headache and pruritis (itching). The itching can be relieved by using antihistamine. Prolonged use can also cause retinopathy or vision impairment,” it said.