There’s faux COVID-19 drugs, say WHO, NAFDAC

As the world anxiously await a cure for COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Wednesday raised the alarm over the rising number of adulterated medical products in the markets.

They specifically mentioned Chloroquine as one of such products that have been faked and bandied by unscrupulous manufacturers as Coronavirus drug.

Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye and WHO Resident Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Tayo Hamzat, spoke of the adulterated products during a webinar organised by Bloom Public Health in Lagos on Wednesday.

They ventilators, sanitisers and face masks as products that unscrupulous people produced and started fake ones.

Adeyeye explained that NAFDAC has however stepped up post-marketing surveillance of COVID-19 medical products as some companies change formulations.

She said, “Post-marketing surveillance is part and parcel of NAFDAC. We stepped it up because we knew that companies were changing formula and formulations for us.

“We see falsified Chloroquine without any active ingredients in it. Of course, we also have had fake sanitizers and  masks, which we have to deal with regulatory-wise.

“Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine are some of the therapeutics that Nigeria is using for clinical trial treatment only. We started with Chloroquine and then Hydroxychloroquine came in. However, WHO said that Hydroxychloroquine should be removed from the solidarity trial.

“Nigeria accepted that, however, there are clinical trials that started before solidarity trials began. Many of us did not know anything about COVID-19 until  six  months ago.

“The disease has at least three stages: early stage, mild, and the severe stage. It is not all the therapeutics that can work in all the stages.

“But thus far in Nigeria, Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine are being used in most hospitalised settings or clinical trial treatment and isolation centres.

“In fact, there have been a lot of social media videos of people saying they went in COVID-19 positive and came back COVID-19 negative  but all they gave them is anti-malaria. So, we can figure that out.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I envisaged that there will be a need for Chloroquine after clinical data started coming from China, France  and US where it was stated that Chloroquine may be effective.

“I asked a company that used to make Chloroquine to make an emergency batch before the first Index Case came into the country. That did not sit well in some quarters but this is what a regulatory agency is supposed to do in times of emergency.”

On alcohol-based hand sanitizers, she said:  We had about 21 hand sanitiser companies in Nigeria before COVID-19. Now, we have over 110 hand sanitiser companies.”

Adeyeye said no herbal preparation has been granted emergency use approval  as efforts are being made to collate evidence of their safety .

The  WHO Representative, Dr. Hamzat, said: “For COVID-19 response, WHO has been sending out alerts about substandard and falsified medical products related to COVID-19. We have specific alert about Chloroquine products circulating in Africa and some other parts of the world.

“For example, there are scam websites which exhibit ventilators that are actually fake. WHO is trying to monitor all these and give guidance to countries.”

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