KAMPALA: The government has allocated Sh3 billion for studies into the efficacy of COVIDEX, a herbal solution that helps relieve symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Prof. Patrick Engeu Ogwang, a clinical pharmacologist behind the herbal concoction, revealed this to Uganda Radio Network in an interview.
He, however, says that the money wasn’t released directly to his company but to the Ministry of Health, which will be spearheading the studies together with an independent board comprising experts from Makerere University and Mbarara University for Science and Technology (MUST).
Ogwang says COVIDEX, which was cleared for emergency use by the National Drug Authority (NDA) in December, has so far gone through tests for acute toxicity and safety in laboratory animals, in addition to the bioavailability of the berberine chemical in the drug.
The tests to be carried out in the next phase, he says, include determining the effect of the solution on viral load in the nasopharynx, mouth, and gastrointestinal tract.
Noting that he had been working on the drug for up to seven years before the COVID-19 pandemic, Prof. Ogwang wants the clinical trial processes for herbal medicines that have been used by the community before actual trials shortened.
He explains that he had been studying three of the five plants used in the making of COVIDEX for up to 15 years.
But, the National Drug Authority’s Spokesperson, Abiaz Rwamwiri, says whether medicine is herbal or not, they currently all go through the same clinical trial steps that are internationally recognized, starting with research and development, pre-clinical and clinical studies, until the stage of Post-Market Drug Safety Monitoring.
Uganda is developing a protocol for exclusive guidance on how to do tests on herbal medicine. In an earlier interview, Dr. Bruce Kirenga, the Director of Makerere University Lung Institute, told URN that once completed, the Mulago hospital-based facility will be in charge of evaluating every herbal product that researchers come up with before they are finally sent for final approval at the NDA.
When controversy about the effectiveness hit at the height of the second wave of COVID-19 in Uganda, COVIDEX was subjected to a survey by the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda where 88% of the 223 positive cases confirmed getting better three days after using the herbal drug.