The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has endorsed the use of Remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, saying that the result of the clinical trial in the US has revealed that it is of immense benefits.
Ihekweazu, while featuring yesterday on a programme on Channels Television, said the result of the clinical trial of the drug had shown that it was effective in treating COVID-19 patients.
The experimental drug was at the weekend authorised by the United States regulators for emergency use against COVID-19.
The agency also explained that Nigeria could not adopt the method of testing used in Ghana as there was a price to pay for testing at top speed.
Giving details on the use of Remdesivir, Ihekweazu said it held hope for the treatment of the virus, stressing that he was happy about the clinical trials of the drug because it could be used for emergency treatment of the virus.
He stated that NCDC would discuss with regulatory authorities, particularly the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), to speed up the regulatory process for Nigerians to access the drugs.
He said: “Remdesivir is the first drug that has shown efficacy. It was tried and it did produce benefits. This one has raised hope. We have to be careful about drugs because many of them have side effects, but I am happy that the clinical trial of Remdesivir is showing a positive result.
“What we now need to do is to gain access to these drugs. It is a difficult process at the moment but we have started the conversation to enable access to Nigerians. We will speak with NAFDAC to speed up the regulatory process so that we can make these drugs available and accessible to Nigerians. So, it is the first step. That is how science works.
“Sometimes, it is slower than we want it to be and we will like it to be. It is the same for vaccines and the same for drugs.”
Also commenting on the use of Hydroxychloroquine to treat patients, he said there was no evidence that the drug was effective in treating COVID-19 patients.
Reacting to criticisms that South Africa and Ghana with smaller populations have carried out more tests than Nigeria, the NCDC boss said Nigeria could not adopt Ghana’s method because it did not suit the country’s circumstances.
“It is not right for us to adopt Ghana’s style because it does not suit our circumstances. It has a price to pay. There is a price to pay for being at top speed,” he added.
On the situation in South Africa, he said he had worked in that country for three years before relocating to Nigeria and he knew what South Africa had invested in the past 50 years.
He stated that Nigeria’s target was to carry out two million tests in the next three months.
According to him, NCDC has been building testing capacity daily.
Speaking on the reported breakthrough with herbal cure in Madagascar, Ihekweazu said he did not have the details of the breakthrough and would not recommend such an herbal cure.
“I do think there is a role for traditional medicine but I need to understand what works and what does not work before recommending for anyone to use. In my position, I have to be careful what I recommend because it is not a personal opinion but an institutional position,” he added.
Also commenting on Nigeria’s efforts to get a vaccine for the pandemic, he described vaccine development for new disease as a long term venture, adding that Nigeria is “part of a global solidarity trial.”
“We are part of the global efforts in different research objectives. They are long term objectives,” he said.
Speaking on the Infectious Diseases Bill before the House of Representatives, Ihekweazu said such a bill was long overdue but it should not be enacted in the middle of a crisis.
“The middle of a crisis is not the best time to enact a bill. Public health is very broad and is largely implemented by states and local governments. So, there is a need for broader consultation. We were not part of the consultation,” he added.