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A woman gets her temperature checked before entering Mpilo Hospita in Zimbabwe, April 2020.
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Health

WHO Sets Rules for Testing of African Herbal Medicines in Fight Against COVID-19


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The World Health Organisations’ Regional Expert Committee on Traditional Medicine for COVID-19 has endorsed a protocol for clinical trials of herbal medicine for COVID-19 — saying the new rules are aimed at helping and empowering scientists in Africa to conduct proper clinical trials. 

The committee is set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs.

“Just like other areas of medicine, sound science is the sole basis for safe and effective traditional medicine therapies,” said Dr. Prosper Tumusiime, WHO Director of Universal Health Coverage and Life Course Cluster, in a statement

“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,” he added

This means that African herbal medicines have been greenlit for phase three clinical trials, which usually tests the safety and efficacy of a drug on larger groups of participants. 

“The adoption of the technical documents will ensure that universally acceptable clinical evidence of the efficacy of herbal medicines for the treatment of COVID-19 are generated without compromising the safety of participants,” said Prof. Motlalepula Gilbert Matsabisa, the panel chairman.

Dr. Tumusiime explained that through the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum, there is now a benchmark upon which clinical trials of medicines and vaccines in Africa can be assessed and approved in fewer than 60 days.

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The controversy around the use of African herbal medicines reached a head in April when Madagascar’s president Andriy Rajoelina launched Covid-Organics to much fanfare, saying the herbal medicine was both a remedy and prevention for COVID-19. 

Yet it had only been tested on 20 people over a 3-week period and launched in the face of the WHO’s warnings against using untested remedies. 

Rajoelina reportedly stands by the herbal mixture despite Madagascar’s more than 16,000 COVID-19 cases and 229 deaths.

Meanwhile, global coronavirus deaths have now exceeded 1 million and the number of global cases now stand at around 34 million.