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Researchers want drug regulators to relax approval process for Covid-19 herbal treatments

Prof Patrick Ogwang, developer of Covidex. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Researchers in herbal medicine want medicine regulators to relax approval requirements for medicines being developed to manage Covid-19.

Before the National Drug Authority-NDA approves a herbal drug for use, the manufacturer needs to present at least two samples of the drug to the World Health Organization-WHO for testing.

The researcher also needs to provide a list of all used plants and during the trials, they need to provide evidence that the drug is effective and does not lead to life-threatening side effects. Normally, this process can take months or even years to complete.

According to researchers, the time needed to carry out trials to get approval is too long given the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic. They argue herbs are part and partial of the African lifestyle and are safe.

Prof Motlalepula Matsabisa, a South African based researcher on herbal medicine says it is unrealistic for drug regulators to ask for many detailed research outcomes.

He says preliminary research shows that herbal medicines produced locally on the market are effective in managing Covid-19. Matsabiba says instead of frustrating ongoing works, drug authorities should expedite approvals.

At the moment, 14 ongoing Covid-19 herbal remedies types of research are ongoing in Africa. These researches are taking place in Botswana, Congo, Ghana, South Africa, Benin, Burkina Faso, DRC, Guinea, Madagascar, Nigeria, Togo, Uganda and Ghana.

Uganda currently has three products that are being used in the management of Covid-19. Only one of the products, UVB-01N, a proposed treatment is undergoing clinical trials, while the trials for Covidex and Covylice are yet to start.

Prof Patrick Ogwang, the developer of Covidex says that the fees needed make it almost impossible for scientists and researchers to carry out studies.

“Herbal medicine works but when drug regulators start asking you for clinical trial data, it becomes hard because it is too expensive to carry out clinical trials. Many herbalists can’t carry them out because they do not have money. Over two billion shillings is needed for someone to start a trial,” he said.

However, drug regulators insist that herbal medicines need to undergo all stages of drug approvals like efficacy and safety studies to ensure that the products are not adulterated or harmful to consumers.

Dr Michael Mutyaba, the head of herbal medicines at the National Drug Authority-NDA says it is important for all stages to be followed in the approval of drugs to ensure they work and are not harmful to consumers.

“NDA has the mandate to protect all Ugandans to make sure that the drugs they are using are safe and will not cause them harm. We have streamlined this process to make it easy for everyone,” he said.

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