Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Signals from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) indicate that vaccine that could work against coronavirus may be discovered sooner than expected.
NCDC, in a tweet, yesterday, confirmed there were many drugs in clinical trial even as scientists work assiduously towards finding a cure for a cure for COVID-19.
It said: “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 taskforce on the control of COVID-19, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said that there was 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 vaccine that would be effective against coronavirus.
National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) recently ordered mass production of Chloroquine for emergency stock for possible clinical trial treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Chloroquine was reported to had demonstrated marked efficacy and acceptable safety in treating COVID-19 associated pneumonia in a multi-center clinical trials conducted in China.
The study, according to NAFDAC, involved 10 hospitals in Wuhan, Jingzhou, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Ningbo, was reported to be superior to 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 raw material, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) chloroquine phosphate could be difficult because the use of the drug was discontinued in Nigeria long ago.
She said: “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 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 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.
Meanwhile, there is likely to be a breakthrough in the search for a drug or vaccine for COVID-19 latest by June, Dr. Arun Balaganga, Medical Director, Indian International Healthcare Centre, Abuja has said.
The Indian doctor resident in Abuja, said 15 pharmaceutical companies, including JOHNSON and JOHNSON, PFIZER and SANOFI, were already working on different drugs and vaccines now at different stages of clinical trials.
“China and India are already using hydroxychloroquine to treat patients of the virus. Right now, there are no vaccine trials in India to the best of my knowledge, but there are lists of 12 to 15 companies working on different combinations.
“Nobody likes to live in a compromised situation; everybody is doing the best, but if some kind of drug trials is successful, then, probably in one or two months time, we will be in a position to contain the virus if we have the proper drugs.
“Some of the drugs can be ready in two months because they are in the phase three of the clinical trials so those drugs can be ready.
“Pharmaceutical company GILEAD is working on a drug called REMDESIVIR that is in clinical phase trial three, then ABABY is working on LOPINAVIR- RITONAVIR combination (second line HIV drug), and it’s also in phase three of the clinical trial.
“So, basically, if they are proving effective, then there is actually hope for all of us. Vaccination trial has already started in different parts of the world,” Balaganga said.
He explained that every country had its own system of approval not subjected to the World Health Organisation (WHO).