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FG backs local scientific research on COVID-19

…report of possible cure for disease excites Osinbajo


The Federal Government has pledged support for a team of Nigerian professors and scientists investigating the effectiveness of Ivermectin drug in the treatment of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease.


Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, gave the pledge yesterday while being briefed by a team of scientists led by Prof. Femi Babalola, the Principal Investigator, and Prof. Chris Bode, the Chief Medical Director of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), on the drug.


The team, which is composed of Nigerian scholars at home and abroad, has also submitted their report on the usefulness of the drug to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has already appointed a Peer Review expert from the United Kingdom.


The vice president, who expressed excitement about the report, said that Nigeria and Nigerians “are at the cutting edge of scientific research into the COVID-19 treatment.”


According to him, “We have an opportunity here and I am so fascinated to hear this drug has been used in the treatment of River Blindness in this country.”


While commending the efforts of the team, Osinbajo said that with the report, Nigeria is now at an advantage, both in knowledge and availability of the drug, especially since Ivermectin has been found useful, not only in the treatment of COVID-19, but also as a prophylactic medication.


He disclosed that the Federal Government will explore further ways to support the research for the benefit of Nigerians and humanity generally, while also advancing the effective funding of scientific research in the country.


Members of the group named IVERCOVID Research Group are the Principal Investigator, Prof. Babalola, an ophthalmologist and surgeon; the Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode; the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Council at LUTH, Prof. Lanre Adeyemo; a U.S.-based Clinical Pharmacologist, Prof. Adesuyi Ajayi; two project virologists – Prof. S.A Omilabu and Dr. Olumuyiwa Salu; and the Project Coordinator, Dr. Felix Alakaloko.


Both Babalola and Bode commended the Buhari administration for encouraging the research and thanked the vice president for his personal role and support.


The report, which is titled: “A randomised controlled trial for the repurposing of Ivermectin in the management of COVID- 19,” showed that the research was carried out at LUTH following the report of a 5,000-fold reduction in viral load by Australian workers with in-vitro use of Ivermectin on COVID-19 in culture.


The Principal Investigator (Babalola) has worked extensively with Ivermectin on the Onchocerciasis- River Blindness control programme, through which many Nigerians have used Ivermectin.


The study revealed that the mechanism of action of Ivermectin include “inhibiting viral entry into cells’ nucleus” and “direct suppression of viral RNA load of SARS CoV 2,” among others.


According to the report, Ivermectin is orally absorbed with higher absorption as a solution bet  ter than tablets, and “The Mean Residence Time” (MRT) is 3.4 days. This informs the suggested frequency of dosing, i.e. twice a week.


The research’s null hypothesis noted that: “Safe doses of Ivermectin are not useful in the treatment of patients with virologyproven COVD-19 disease, does not lower viral load and does not shorten time to negativity, neither does it cause improvement in clinical parameters when compared to Lopinavir/ Ritonavir/Placebo.”


But, its Alternative Hypothesis revealed that “safe doses of Ivermectin are useful in the treatment of patients with virologyproven COVID-19 disease, lowering viral load, shortening time to negativity and causing improvement in clinical parameters when compared with Lopinavir/ Ritonavir/Placebo.”


The study noted that so far, the randomisation was effective based on distribution of age, sex and some clinical presentation at baseline such as cough and fever.


The overall results showed that the “Days-To- Negative (DTN) reduced by 3.8 days overall. While a few patients are negative by day two, 50 per cent are negative by day five.” The study indicated that clinical trials of Ivermectin have been carried out in at least 21 countries worldwide, including Nigeria.


It referenced the “metaanalysis of clinical trials of Ivermectin to treat COVID- 19 infection” by Dr. Andrew Hill, Department of Pharmacology, University of Liverpool, UK.


Highlighting the practical applications, the study proposed that “Ivermectin should be considered for adoption into the uniform treatment guidelines of COVID-19 in Nigeria,” noting the “potential use of Ivermectin as prophylaxis pending the rollout of vaccination programmes or alongside it.”


However, the study emphasized that Ivermectin “is not meant to replace other COVID-19 measures such as social distancing, face masking and hygiene, or vaccinations,” adding that “it is possibly an additional tool, which can be deployed to fight the pandemic.”


The group stated that it has forwarded a report of its findings to the National Agency for Foods, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for further vetting.


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