Covid-19: Ethiopian drug ready for clinical trials

Saturday April 4 2020

vaccine against coronavirus

A researcher works on a vaccine against coronavirus at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020. PHOTO | THIBAULT SAVARY | AFP 

TESFA-ALEM TEKLE
By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE
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As scientists around the world race to develop a vaccine for the Covid-19, Ethiopia says it is also developing a cure for the highly contagious virus.

In a joint press statement, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Innovation and Technology said "a domestic treatment drug" is being developed by traditional medicine experts in the country.

The two ministries said the drug is being made by integrating traditional medical knowledge with modern science.

According to the statement, the drug has passed through basic research procedures and was successful in the laboratory modelling processes.

“Since the outbreak, different Ethiopian scientists both in the country and abroad have been carrying out research,” said Abraham Belay, Minister for Innovation and Technology.

“We are seeing good results and further outcomes will be revealed to the public soon," he added.

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According to the minister, the laboratory research phase of the project is completed.

“It has passed through various testing stages and the green light has been given for further clinical trials,” he said adding “the next step is testing the product,” said Mr Belay.

The minister said the research is being carried out as per the World Health Organisation standards and hoped it can be available in the near future.

The drug is hoped to cure patients by boosting their immune system and has proven to be free of toxins.

“We hope to get a successful outcome out of the research” said Ethiopia Health Minister, Liya Tadesse.

The ministry of Health said that it will soon announce the final outcome of the product once it gets final approval, but advised that the public continue to adhere to the ministry’s and World Health Organisation prevention guidelines.

Speaking to The EastAfrican, a local medicine expert who is close to the research team said that the Covid-19 medicine, which is being developed is “promising.”

"We have developed medication for the virus and it has successfully passed through a number of laboratory processes in research centres abroad," he said on condition of anonymity.

"We need three months to finally declare whether we have found the cure. But the outcomes so far are very promising," he added.

According to the source, the research process is being finalised and preparations to proceed for production are underway.

Public criticism

However, the country’s announcement of a possible cure has attracted public criticism.

Million Gebremedhin, a businessman in the capital, Addis Ababa said, the early announcement by the ministries was “unwise and controversial.”

“The government’s early announcement of a local cure still in clinical testing jeopardises the ongoing prevention efforts of the virus,” said Mr Gebremedhin.

Speaking to The EastAfrican, Metta-Alem Sinishaw, a senior political analyst said the news of a possible cure coming from the ministry of Health will “undoubtedly have a substantial adverse effect on public attitude towards prevention, compromise its own prevention efforts and undermines its credibility.”

“The news of a possible cure, during a time of urgent need for prevention, seems unwise and untimely. Given the magnitude of devastation of the pandemic, the government’s top priority should be prevention and co-ordination with all political parties. They should be sending unified messages to the public to better protect the unfolding disaster posed by the virus,” Metta-Alem added.

Scientists are yet to find a vaccine for Covid-19 and are advocating for social-distancing and self-quarantine as social vaccines at this point.