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The Federal Ministry of Health is screening 19 local firms for the production of herbal drugs that can possibly treat or cure COVID-19, The PUNCH has learnt.
The firms, it was learnt, made many claims ranging from the outright cure for COVID-19 to the treatment of the symptoms.
It was learnt that the 19 firms had met with the leadership of the ministry and the Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The firms have, however, been asked to submit their samples to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control out of which three would be picked and recommended for funding.
The Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, confirmed this during a chat with The PUNCH on Monday.
He said a meeting was held with the leadership of NAFDAC, the National Institute for Medical Research, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and other relevant stakeholders.
Mamora said the ministry asked interested herbal manufacturers to tell the government what their challenges were.
The minister said some of them complained about funding as well as possible theft of their patent. Mamora said concerns over how to identify patients for trial were also discussed.
He said, “We met with about 19 of them to know what remedies they have in place and to know how we can put them through the processes from listing the medicine to clinical trial and then we wanted to know the challenges they were having.
“They said those challenges essentially were funding and they needed assurances that their intellectual property would be protected and their product or remedy would not be stolen or repackaged by someone else.
“The other challenge is how to go about the clinical trial. Part of that is how they source for patients because they will need patients who are volunteers. These patients have to be volunteers since it is a new product that will be put out there.
“So, we are now in the process of screening the 19 of them and we will shortlist some of them. About three will be shortlisted for further assessment and we will recommend support for them in order to fast track the process of determining their efficacy.”
When asked if the drugs were for the outright cure of COVID-19 or just for the treatment, Mamora said it was too soon to say as discussions were still on.
He said NAFDAC would test the herbal solutions to see if they are safe for human consumption.