Covidex boss asked to surrender clinical trials to Health ministry

The National Drug Authority (NDA) last year gave Ugandans a green light to use Covidex as a supporting treatment for Covid-19 and other viral infections. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Independent health experts from Makerere and Mbarara universities will be behind the trials.

The developer of Covidex, Prof Patrick Ogwang, has said he was ordered by the government to surrender the oversight of the clinical trials to the Ministry of Health to eliminate bias and guarantee the reliability of results.
“There was a decision that the Ministry of Health manages the clinical trials for Covidex, so everything was given to the ministry. They are the ones who know related information,” he told Monitor last week on telephone when asked about the progress of the trials.

Prof Ogwang, a clinical pharmacologist, without revealing the names, said independent health experts from Makerere and Mbarara universities will be behind the trials.
He said the trial will cost Shs2b, money which Dr Monica Musenero, the Minister for Science and Technology said would be provided by the government.  The developer of Covidex had announced last year that the trials would start by July, 2021 but this didn’t happen as Dr Musenero said the government was still processing the money.

Dr Samuel Ikwaras Okware, the director general of Uganda National Health Research Organisation (UNHRO) –a semi-autonomous body under the Ministry of Health which oversees health research in the country, couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.
But a highly-placed source within the ministry said most of the requirements for the trials have been obtained.
“All the approvals for the trials have been obtained. A clinical trial agreement has been signed between the principal investigator and the sponsor (government). The trial will begin soon,” the source said.

Initial approval
Covidex has already received initial approval from National Drug Authority (NDA) as a supportive treatment for Covid-19 but it can only be approved as a cure after clinical trials. 
There was also heated arguments and verbal attacks between the developer of the medicine and Mbarara University -the institution where the product was developed, on who should own the product but Prof Ogwang later emerged as the real owner.
Dr Bruce Kirenga, the director of Makerere University Lung Institute, who is working with the government to develop protocol for testing herbal medicines, said they are getting a facility in Mulago hospital to do trials on herbs.
“We are going to design our own adaptive protocol, which is the backbone. This means anyone with a natural product, we can evaluate the product very quickly using a blend of modern methods but also bearing in mind the specifics of these herbal medicines,” he said.

He added: “We hope that this year we shall evaluate two or three herbs –many people have products with claims that they cure diabetes, cancer, and what we want is to do experiments and if they don’t work…”
Dr Charles Olaro, the director of clinical services at the Ministry of Health, said what Prof Ogwang said is true but didn’t give details.


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