ON Tuesday, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, announced it would proceed with hydroxychloroquine clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 in Nigeria after the World Health Organisation, WHO, suspended testing following a study on its effects on COVID-19 patients.
In a report, the NAFDAC Director-General, Mojisola Adeyeye, said there are proven records that hydroxychloroquine had been effective in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, especially those at the “mild stage” of the virus.
“There is data to prove that hydroxychloroquine worked for many COVID-19 patients. Therefore, we would continue our own clinical trials in Nigeria. Hydroxychloroquine has been proved to work at a mild stage. So the potency depends on the severity of the disease in the patient’s body,” she said.
Mojisola stated the hydroxychloroquine clinical trials had begun in earnest, but its conclusion depends on the speed of work which could be in three to four months.
“If medical doctors, research scientists, pharmacists, herbal experts work together, we should conclude the clinical trial in three to four months. The narrative might change afterward but for now, we believe in hydroxychloroquine,” she said.
In a study published in the Lancet, peer-reviewed journal over 96,000 virus patients were examined and most of them had a higher risk of abnormal heartbeats, or arrhythmias, that could cause a heart attack in those treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine.
WHO announced that it was “temporarily” suspending the clinical trials of chloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19 saying the decision was a temporary measure.
The global health body said other arms of the so-called ‘Solidarity trial’ – a major international initiative to hold clinical tests of potential treatments for the virus – were continuing.
Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus hinted its safety board was still reviewing the drug until a final position is taken.
“The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity trial, while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board. The other arms of the trial are continuing,” he said.
He emphasised that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine “are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria,” noting that the suspension was a temporary measure.
The Lancet study looked at patient medical records in 671 hospitals across six continents, making it the most extensively published evaluation of the drug’s impacts on coronavirus patients.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.