AS Tanzania encourages Covid-19 alternative remedies including steam therapy, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has welcomed similar initiatives around the world.
The innovations welcomed by the global health body include repurposing drugs, traditional medicines and developing new therapies in the search for potential treatments for the deadly virus.
The WHO’s support comes a few days after President John Magufuli challenged higher learning institutions to venture into coronavirus treatment researches.
Along the same lines, President Magufuli encouraged application of traditional remedies, including steam inhalation therapy to ease the symptoms of Covid- 19 --an advice that has been widely embraced by the public and health experts.
Health professionals heeded Dr Magufuli’s advice, with some offering medical and scientific clues about the therapy and called upon the public to seek more advice from health practitioners on proper use of the medicines.
In its statement availed to the media yesterday, the organisation said it recognises that traditional, complementary and alternative medicines have many benefits and Africa has a long history of traditional medicine and practitioners that play an important role in providing care to populations.
According to WHO, medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua are being considered as possible treatments for Covid-19 and should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects.
“Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world. Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical,” reads the statement in part.
Commenting yesterday, the Head of Traditional Medicines Department at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Dr Justine Omolo, said the move by WHO was something that his institution had been doing and that it had already came up with a formulation ‘nutrition therapy’ that intends to ease the symptoms of Covid- 19.
“The recent formulation introduced by NIMR is not a cure but it aims at helping Covid-19 patients with severe flu and dry cough as the main symptoms of the respiratory disease,” he noted.
Dr Omolo stated that they had already applied for ethical clearance certificate so that they can be allowed to conduct research and administer the formulation to patients in order to collect data.
He said that once the formulation is proven scientifically, WHO will also be informed because it will have scientific evidence.
The organisation said Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world.
Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical.
It further explained that, African governments through their Ministers of Health adopted a resolution urging member states to produce evidence on the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicine at the Fiftieth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in 2000.
Countries also agreed to undertake relevant research and require national medicines regulatory agencies to approve medicines in line with international standards, which include the product following a strict research protocol and undergoing tests and clinical trials.
These studies normally involve hundreds of people under the monitoring of the national regulatory authorities and may take quite a few months in an expedited process.
The organisation said it was working with research institutions to select traditional medicine products which can be investigated for clinical efficacy and safety for Covid- 19 treatment.
In addition, the organisation will continue to support countries as they explore the role of traditional health practitioners in prevention, control and early detection of the virus as well as case referral to health facilities.
Over the past two decades, WHO has been working with countries to ensure safe and effective traditional medicine development in Africa by providing financial resources and technical support.
WHO has supported clinical trials, leading 14 countries to issue marketing authorisation for 89 traditional medicine products which have met international and national requirements for registration.
Of these, 43 have been included in national essential medicines lists.
These products are now part of the arsenal to treat patients with a wide range of diseases, including malaria, opportunistic infections related to HIV, diabetes, sickle cell and hypertension.
Almost all countries in the WHO African region have national traditional medicine policies, following support from the global health body.
It, however, cautioned that, as efforts are under way to find treatment for Covid- 19, caution must be taken against misinformation, especially on social media, about the effectiveness of certain remedies.