African Union to investigate Madagascar's herbal coronavirus remedy

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina at the launch of Covid-Organics in the country's capital, Antananarivo.
Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina at the launch of Covid-Organics in the country's capital, Antananarivo.
Image: AFP

The African Union (AU) and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are to investigate the effectiveness of Madagascar's herbal tincture developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research and touted as a cure by the nation's president, Andry Rajoelina.

The AU, chaired by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, on Monday said that their review would “be based on global technical and ethical norms to garner the necessary scientific evidence regarding the performance of the tonic.”

Branded Covid Organics, or CVO, the artemisia-based tonic has now been sent to several other African countries, including Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau and Niger to assist in the fight against the global pandemic that has to date claimed more than 250 thousand lives worldwide.

Tanzania's president John Magufuli on Sunday claimed that coronavirus testing kits shipped to his country were faulty after quality checks returned positive Covid-19 results from a pawpaw, a goat and a sheep.

Madagascar currently has 151 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with no coronavirus related deaths, and 101 of those patients have recovered. However, official stats show that, so far, just 3,861 tests have been conducted in the island nation.

The medicinal plant on which the CVO formula is based, Artemesia Annua, locally known as African wormwood or umhlonyane, was first imported to Madagascar in the 1970s for use as a malaria treatment.

Rajoelina this week said that an injectable solution of the same product was also under clinical trials in Madagascar.

“A pharmaceutical factory will be set up within a month to increase the production capacity of COVID Organics. It will be administered in other forms such as injections,” he posted on Twitter.

The Sub-Saharan Africa regional office of the World Health Organisation, meanwhile, cautioned use of the product, saying that “even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical.” — DispatchAFRICA