The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, has hailed locally-made “products” for tackling coronavirus, triggering words of caution from the WHO about any unsupported claims for Covid treatment.
“Having a vaccine is essential. But we are also in favour of a curative treatment,” Tshisekedi said on January 11.
“I believe we have two products which are promising, at least in the first results they have shown. They are Congolese products. We are going to promote them.”
One of the products, called Manacovid, went on sale in pharmacies in Kinshasa last month, an AFP journalist saw.
Bottles of the over-the-counter concoction were on sale for $110 (90 euros) each — a fortune in a country where two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 per day.
The man who describes himself as its inventor, Etienne-Flaubert Batangu Mpesa, who works at the Luozi Pharmaceutical Research Centre in Kongo-Central province, described Manacovid as a “medication manufactured with local medicinal plants.”
The authorities have given the product a five-year authorisation for public sale, according to an official document seen by AFP.
In a letter to the inventor, dated January 7, DRC Health Minister Eteni Longondo hailed the outcome of what he called “clinical tests” carried out in a hospital, and promised his ministry “will support you as the process moves ahead.”
But further details about the product are sketchy — and the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded caution, as it has done in other claims of Covid fixes.
Its regional office for Africa, based in Brazzaville in the neighbouring Republic of Congo, told AFP in an email that it had “yet to be formally approached by the inventor of the product or by the Congolese authorities.”
It said it had informed an expert panel on traditional medicine and Covid, which the WHO set up last year with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
“Clinical tests are essential for providing scientific evidence about the safety, effectiveness and quality of all medications, whether tradition- or modern-based,” the WHO warned.
Last week, a product called Articovid, based on a plant called artemisia which is widely used to treat malaria, was shown to the DRC press by its inventor, Jerome Munyangi, who described himself as a “doctor and researcher.”
He said he would apply to the ministry of health for “marketing authorisation or certification.”
In March, the president of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, stoked controversy by promoting an artemisia-based brew called Covid-Organics that he touted as a cure.
The WHO issued its first sounding of caution about any claim that lacked scientific proof to show whether it was safe and effective.
Despite this, Madagascar has sent samples of the drink to other countries in Africa and is promoting syrup and capsule versions of the formula.
The DRC has recorded 21,597 cases of coronavirus, of which 647 have been fatalities, according to the latest figures, published on Friday.