HEALTH: COVIDEX Clinical Trial To start in two weeks

Prof Patrick Ogwanga, the brains behind COVIDEX in an interview. (FILE PHOTO)

Kampala | RedPepper Digital – There has been a cloud surrounding what has deemed Uganda’s gateway to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic; the wait is over. Trials of COVID-19 are set to start.

Clinical pharmacist and developer of CovidexPatrick Ogwang, has revealed that plans are underway to start clinical trials for Covidex in two weeks.

Speaking to this website on Tuesday, Prof Ogwang said the trial for the supportive treatment drug for Covid-19 or managing related symptoms will be done by independent experts from Makerere and Mbarara universities.

Currently, the alternative treatment drug and other similar drugs have only been approved for emergency use as they await clinical trials.

Prof Ogwang also revealed that they have increased their production capacity from 5,000 per day to 100,000 bottles per day, saying this will be helpful in combatting the Covid-19 in light of the looming third wave of the pandemic.

Dr Alice Lamwaka, the lead developer of Covilyce-1, another herbal remedy being used as a supportive treatment for Covid-19, said they are still waiting for funds from the government to undertake the clinical trial.

She said the existing clinical trial procedures may not work for herbal medicines because they are dove-tailed for synthetic medicines.

“Conventional [synthetic] medicines have only one chemical component that will be followed all through but in one herbal medicine, you have [active ingredients] like alkaloids, flavonoids and saponins all with different activities. Applying the Western-based sciences to herbal medicines, therefore, presents a complex set of challenges,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr Monica Musenero, the minister of Science, Technology and Innovations, has announced that the money for clinical trials for Covid-19 herbal medicines that the President promised, is being processed and will be availed.

While marking the 19th African Traditional Medicine Day in Kampala on Tuesday, Dr Munsenero said they have developed a customised clinical trial procedure that will be finalised and shared with developers of herbal medicines.

She also told the scientists that government had developed clear plans to ensure traditional medicine is treated as conventional drugs in healthcare.

The minister revealed that they are planning to set up a specialised centre for clinical trials at Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala.

Dr Robert Balikudedembe, the deputy principal investigator for UBV-01N, the herbal remedy developed by Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute (NCRI) of the Ministry of Health, said the trial for their product at Mulago hospital has been completed.

“We are doing data analysis at the moment and the report will be out soon,” he said.

The trial was launched by President Museveni in January and the product was tested in 124 Covid-19 patients.

Dr Sam Okware, the director-general of Uganda National Health Research Organisation, said there is a need for increased advocacy to “mitigate medico-centric tendencies from the mainstream Western medicine.

“Traditional healers must be willing to share knowledge through appropriate apprenticeship. Medical schools are good entry points for the introduction of aspects of alternative and complementary medicine. Universities should develop departments for traditional medicine work,” he said.

Prof Ogwang said there is need to start teaching traditional medicine at the primary level of education.

Currently, NCRI, National Drug Authority (NDA), alongside the Education ministry, have come up with courses where herbalists are trained to have basic medical knowledge and good manufacturing practices.

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health Minister, told experts that traditional medicines can improve access to universal healthcare and contribute to controlling the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

“Having traditional medicine, among the priority programmes of Uganda, will position it as one of those to take concrete steps towards the attainment of the Alma-Alta Declaration of 1978 that called on member states of WHO to include traditional medicine in their primary health systems, and to recognise traditional medicine practitioners as health care providers,” she said in a statement.

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