Nigeria won’t use Ebola drug, remdesivir, to fight coronavirus —NAFDAC

As US authorises Ebola drug for COVID-19 treatment

Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, has said NAFDAC is not considering the use of the Ebola drug, remdesivir, for the treatment of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

Professor Adeyeye stated that remdesivir has only been found effective in the later stage of COVD-19 or in the severe case of COVID-19.

She said that the drug, remdesivir, was still under development and costly, adding that it would also not be commercially available.

The United State’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the weekend, authorised emergency use of the Ebola drug, remdesivir for treating the coronavirus.

The authorisation means the anti-viral drug can now be used on people who are hospitalised with severe COVID-19.

A recent clinical trial showed the drug helped shorten the recovery time for people who were seriously ill.

However, it did not significantly improve survival rates.

Experts have warned the drug – which was originally developed to treat Ebola, and is produced by Gilead Pharmaceutical Company in California – should not be seen as a “magic bullet” for coronavirus.

The drug interferes with the virus’s genome, disrupting its ability to replicate.

During a meeting with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Gilead Chief Executive Daniel O’Day, said the FDA authorisation was an important first step.

The company would donate 1.5 million vials of the drug, he said.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn also said at the meeting: “It’s the first authorised therapy for COVID-19, so we’re really proud to be part of it.”

But according to the NAFDAC boss, “it is not a drug that is manufactured anywhere. It is a drug under development, meaning that is not a commercially available product.

“There are different stages of COVID-19 disease. All drugs cannot work the same way for the same disease because each drug has its own way of working at a particular stage of the disease.

“So, it is very likely that we will not use remdesivir. First, it is very costly because it is still under development, meaning nobody is making it for commercial purpose yet. Secondly, we have to consider its risk to benefit ratio.”

Professor Adeyeye said chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine  were the drugs that NAFDAC was looking at possibly for the treatment of COVID-19.

According to her, the Lagos State Ministry of Health is conducting clinical treatment trial for COVID-19 using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

She declared: “Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are cheaper drugs; some of those other drugs that are talked about for the treatment of the infection have many side effects.

“Chloroquine has side effects. In developing medicine, we always look at the risk versus the benefit ratio. If the benefits outweigh the risks, they certify the medicine as okay for use after clinical trials.

“Right now, there is no drug that has been pencilled in as a drug that is doing magic for the treatment of COVID-19, even remdesivir. For those who used remdesivir, it took 14 days for the patient to get over the COVID-19.

“For those who use chloroquine, it takes 11 days, which is significant. Certainly, if another drug can do it for a lesser day, we will take that drug,” she said.

Professor Adeyeye stated that the current cost of remdesivir is out of reach, adding, “how many people are you going to use remdesivir for in Africa?”

“Yes, it is very expensive. But they have been able to afford it in the US. First, they are going to use it for US citizens and secondly, it is a US company that will be producing it. So, they will not mind buying from them even at a very costly price,” she said.

 

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