Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina has said criticism of his country’s herbal tonic that he is touting as a treatment for Covid-19 shows the West’s condescending attitude towards Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against using untested remedies. But Mr. Rajoelina’s tonic has not gone through clinical trials.
“If it was a European country that had actually discovered this remedy, would there be so much doubt? I don’t think so,” Mr. Rajoelina said in an interview with French news channel, France 24. Madagascar has reported 193 Covid-19 cases and no deaths.
The tonic was tried out on fewer than 20 people over three weeks, a presidential aide told the BBC, when the product was first launched last month – which is not in line with WHO guidelines on clinical trials.
Despite the reservations, several African countries, including Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and Liberia, have already ordered Covid-Organics, which is produced from the artemisia plant – the source of an ingredient used in a malaria treatment – and other Malagasy plants.
WHO has said Africans deserved access to medicines that have gone through proper trials even if they are derived from traditional treatments. But in the television interview, Mr. Rajoelina said “African scientists should not be underestimated.”
A meeting of 70 experts on African traditional medicine has agreed that clinical trials for all medicines must be carried out, the WHO’s Africa region has tweeted.