THE Director-General of the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) Obi Adigwe, on Monday, sought funding interventions, especially from local philanthropists and corporate bodies, to advance the institute’s research and development (R&D) on Niprimune.
The DG made the call during an exclusive interview with The ICIR at the NIPRD’s headquarters in Abuja.
“People who have funding should come forward and support the work we do at NIPRD.”
He said scientists in Thailand had started using the tea from the same plant from which Niprimune was developed.
The drug, according to Adigwe, was an immune-modulatory phytomedicine, developed from a local plant in the country known as Andrographis paniculata.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) had, in January, approved Niprimune for safe consumption after NIPRD developed the drug for boosting the human immune system against coronavirus (COVID-19).
“We have identified some other plants which grow here in Nigeria like Andrographis paniculata. We were the first to put forward the hypothesis that this particular product could have some activities against COVID-19. And based on our profiling of the product in pre-clinical tests, we have put forward that hypothesis and actually gone forward to get that product listed by NAFDAC.”
“…Nigerians can legally buy our product (Niprimune) and use it as either preventive or adjunct to whatever treatment you are tasking because it has empirical evidence that it boosts the immune system but we cannot legally say this product (Niprumune) cures COVID-19. That, we cannot legally do until we finish the clinical tests.”
The DG said about eight professors, over 70 master’s degree holders and some Ph.D. holders aggregated around the pharmaceutical value-chain to develop the drug.
The studies around the drug, he said, had been peer-reviewed by other scientists to understand the processes through which the research was conducted.
According to him, the plant could have “some activities against COVID-19.” Hence, the institute already commenced processes for the clinical trial against the pandemic.
He emphasised that until the clinical trials were completed, it would be too early to make a categorical statement of the drug’s ability to cure COVID-19.
“It is the clinical trials that would determine exactly what that particular substance would do to a human body that has COVID-19 in it, and that is the step we are in,” he noted.
The DG explained further that activities in the context of their discovery implied that, “when we say it could have activities, it means we have done invitro tests – tests inside test tubes, and we have also done pre-clinical tests – tests with animals.
“And some of the profiles you are seeing in the test tubes or animals indicate that it may have activity against COVID-19 but you cannot categorically say that a product can cure COVID-19 until you finish the clinical trial. That’s the stage we are about to enter.”
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, a total of over 4 million deaths have been recorded globally, as of 19 June. This is a figure from almost 191 million confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
As at June 29, about 3.9 million Nigerians had received the Oxford AstraZeneca jabs in both first and second rounds.
Though some Nigerians have developed hesitancy against the vaccines, others are more interested in local solutions against the pandemic.
The Federal Government, in a BBC report, had released N10 billion to support domestic production of vaccines.
Adigwe also told The ICIR that the pharmaceutical group, under the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), had offered NIPRD N50 million as an endowment fund to develop local solutions for the disease.
However, he criticised poor funding from international development agencies and called for local supports from Nigerians.
He added that no other local herbs from traditional medicine practitioners had been subjected to laboratory analysis, hence, he could not establish if any of the herbs was a potential cure.
Nevertheless, he encouraged the traditional health practitioners to submit their discoveries to NIPRD for evaluation. About 100 of the herbal practitioners, he noted, were trained by the institute.
“If you come up with a product and you feel it can cure COVID-19, you don’t need to see the DG. Download the form from the website, fill it and bring the samples, pay the price and that particular product will be analysed according to the indications you have said it has,” he stated.