WHO, ECOWAS, and other governing bodies are against the use of Madagascar herbal cure though, demanding that it needs to undergo clinical trials first.
We will take an in-depth look into this cure and examine what it contains, how it came to be, which countries are currently using it, the active ingredients in this herbal-based medicine, and most importantly, its success rate.
However, before we go into the details, let us examine 10 important facts about the Madagascar herbal cure.
Update: Since this story was originally published, Madagascar has recorded its first coronavirus-related death on 17 May 2020. The deceased was a 57-year staff of a Madagascan hospital.
10 facts about Madagascar’s COVID-19 medicine
- Madagascar herbal cure for Coronavirus is called COVID Organics.
- COVID Organics has reportedly cured two people in Madagascar, according to Madagascan President, Andy Rajoelina.
- President Rajoelina says that COVID Organics cures COVID-19 patients within ten days.
- COVID Organics is made from Artemisinin and other traditional Malagasy medicines like Ravintsara.
- WHO and ECOWAS have discouraged the use of the drug over fears that drug resistance can be developed from its use.
- Madagascar has shipped the herbal remedy to a number of African countries including Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Nigeria.
- COVID Organics has been approved by scientists in Senegal for use in treating patients with Coronavirus.
- South Africa has expressed an interest in carrying out clinical tests on the herbal treatment.
- Equatorial Guinea has reported a 44% increase in COVID-19 recoveries since using the cure.
- President Rajoelina has slammed WHO for not accepting COVID organics, saying that it is because Madagascar is a poor African country.
Background of Madagascar herbal cure
The Coronavirus first emerged in China in late 2019 in a Wuhan wet market. It went on to spread quickly in Wuhan and then to other parts of China. Thousands of people were killed while more information on the virus was being sought before a vaccine could be found.
The World Health Organization even revealed that while several companies, universities, and governments were working hard on a cure, it was possible that a vaccine for the virus would not be found until September 2020. Even now, there is no scientifically proven cure for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Madagascar dives in to find a cure
Madagascar doubled down and decided to find a cure for the deadly virus that has killed almost three hundred thousand people all over the world at the time of writing this article.
Madagascar started trying to find a cure for the virus pretty early on, using a combination of chloroquine and the antibiotic artemisinin, alongside a host of other treatments that take roots in traditional methods.
The founder of the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA), Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga, has always advocated for the connection between modern and traditional medicine so it should come as no surprise that Madagascar turned to traditional medicine for COVID-19 cure.
Madagascar took the promises of chloroquine and the reliability of artemisia, which is derived from artemisinin used to cure malaria in China and dived into action.
The IMRA and Madagascar’s National Pharmacology Research Centre teamed up to set up a research process in order to find out more about the artemisia plant, which is already known for its usefulness in curing malaria.
This research eventually led to the creation of the first suspected cure for the Coronavirus, known as COVID Organics. It uses artemisia and other medicinal plants, like Ravintsara.
What is it about Artemisia that makes it so special?
In 1975, Artemia was introduced by Professor Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga who first used the drug to treat malaria. The Artemisia plant is abundant on Malagasy soil and has already been the subject of more than twenty research processes.
The fact is that Artemisia has been in use since 340BC and originated in China where it was used as part of traditional Chinese medicine.
The extensive study of Artemisinin over the years has led to it being used for its anti-malaria properties. From this, the first artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) was formulated for malaria and called Coartem.
This drug is so potent, in fact, that its medicinal form has been packaged and is sold in pharmaceutical stores within the country. But WHO has cautioned against the constant use of the drug over fears that drug resistance can be developed when Artemisinin is used as a treatment.
The existing research protocol built by the founding scientists enabled the IMRA team to test the results of using the plant to cure the novel Coronavirus by eliminating the symptoms.
This is another achievement for this research centre, which has developed over fifty cures so far, including the antidiabetic drug Madeglucyl and the cough suppressant Madetoxin.
Madagascar’s IMRA research centre
IMRA was founded in 1957 by Albert and Suzanne Rakoto Ratsimamanga who created the financially viable drug, Madecassol, by using the Centella Asiatica plant.
Additionally, the IMRA centre has gained international and regional recognition, including being granted the status of regional research centre by the African Union.
The IMRA research centre is located in Antananarivo and comprises of over 100 researchers who focus mostly on phytochemistry, parasitic and cellular pharmacology, experimental diabetology, pharmacodynamics, toxicology and the analytical chemistry of essential oils.
Madagascar launches COVID Organics as a cure for Coronavirus
On 20 April 2020, Madagascar launched a proposed cure for Coronavirus, called COVID Organics, with President Andry Rajoelina describing it as a preventative and curative COVID-19 medicine.
While speaking at the launch, the Malagasy president says: “All trials and tests have been conducted and its effectiveness in reducing and elimination of symptoms has been proven for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 in Madagascar.”
President Rajoelina adds that “tests have been carried out – two people have now been cured by this treatment.”
According to the president, Madagascar herbal cure cures COVID-19 within ten days.
“We can change the history of the entire world,” he says, after drinking some of the herbal cure.
He later took to his Twitter page to announce that the treatment, which can also be used as a prevention measure will be provided for free to the most vulnerable and sold at a very low price to others.
Depuis sa création par le Pr Ratsimamanga, l’IMRA a développé + de 50 produits en alliant médecine traditionnelle & sciences modernes.
?Covid-Organics, remède traditionnel amélioré à base d'artemisia & de plantes endémiques, curatif & préventif contre le #Covid19, est lancé ! pic.twitter.com/TyH7WK2j25
— Andry Rajoelina (@SE_Rajoelina) April 20, 2020
Madagascar produces 25 tonnes of Artemisinin annually, which is the plant’s active ingredient. Artemisinin has a share of about 10% in the global market, making it a very valuable product.
The response of the World Health Organization (WHO) to COVID Organics
So far, there is still no scientifically proven cure for the COVID-19 pandemic. The closest that anyone has come to a cure for the virus remains Remdesvir, which does not completely cure or prevent the virus but only shortens the recovery time.
Thus, in response to Madagascar’s proposed cure for the virus, WHO said in a statement to BBC that the organisation did not recommend “self-medication with any medicines as a prevention or cure for COVID-19” and that international trials are already ongoing to find a cure.
The WHO also added that there can be no shortcuts to finding an effective medication to combat the virus.
“Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world,” the WHO states in a recent statement. “Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical.”
“Many plants and substances are being proposed without the minimum requirements and evidence of quality, safety and efficacy. The use of products to treat Covid-19, which have not been robustly investigated can put people in danger, giving a false sense of security and distracting them from hand washing and physical distancing which are cardinal in Covid-19 prevention,” the WHO adds.
Despite WHO’s protests, however, a letter by Lucile Cornet-Vernet, founder and vice president of La Maison de l’Artemisia to the French magazine Jeune Afrique stated that Artemisia is very capable of curing Coronavirus.
She says: “We’ve written to the health ministries of just about every government in Africa,” showing “reviews of scientific research and proposed clinical trial protocols.”
She also pointed out that China used artemisia to fight COVID-19, so “African countries would be well advised to also embrace this treatment by carrying out clinical trials as soon as possible.”
Although WHO continues to claim that Madagascar’s herbal medicine is not a viable cure for the Coronavirus, at the time of writing this article, Madagascar has recorded 212 confirmed cases with 107 recovered patients and no deaths. Of its reported 105 active cases, only one patient is reported to be in a critical condition.
After speaking with leaders of other African countries, Madagascar has now begun shipping out the COVID Organics herbal treatment. The Madagascan president has also received praise from his peers, including the presidents of Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal whom he has had teleconferences with.
Equatorial Guinea was the first country to receive a consignment of the medicine from Madagascar. It consisted of 11,500 packets, including 1500 curative drugs and 10,000 preventative medicine.
At the time of writing this article, Equatorial Guinea has recorded 522 confirmed cases with six deaths and 13 recoveries. Nonetheless, other African countries including Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania, Comoros, Chad, and now Nigeria have shown interest in using the cure for Coronavirus patients.
Nearly 70 thousand confirmed cases have been recorded in Africa so far with 2,386 deaths recorded, according to the WHO and African leaders are scrambling to find a cure for this virus before it ravages the continent.
In response to this, the WHO has now called for clinical trials to test the efficacy of Madagascar’s cure for this deadly virus.
“We are advising the government of Madagascar to take this product through a clinical trial and we are prepared to collaborate with them,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, told reporters during a media briefing on 16 April 2020 with the WHO and World Economic Forum.
“We would caution and advise countries against adopting a product that has not been through clinical tests for safety and efficacy,” Moeti continues.
“We are concerned about the impact that COVID-19 will have on the ability of African countries to progress towards universal health coverage.”
“[WHO is] working with countries to leverage the assets they have in place already, built-in preparedness for Ebola and HIV, TB and polio program among others, as well as to scale-up coordination, mobilize people and repair supply chains globally and locally,” she adds.
The President of Madagascar told BBC that COVID Organics has been tested on 20 people over a period of three weeks, with two people being cured by the tonic.
This is a stark contrast to the 2,400 participants that were involved in testing another proposed COVID-19 cure, Remdesivir, which has been proposed as a cure for adults with severe COVID-19 symptoms. This drug has already been approved in places like Japan.
This severe discrepancy in the testing of Madagascar’s drug is a source of concern for WHO, who among other things, want the drug tested on a much wider group of people.
The Madagascan president has dismissed concerns though, slamming the WHO for not accepting the drug. In an exclusive interview with France24, a France based media agency, he says:
“If it were a European country which had discovered this remedy, would there be so many doubts. ‘The problem is that it comes from Africa. And they cannot accept that a country like Madagascar, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, has discovered this formula to save the world.”
Side effects of using COVID Organics
So far, there are no known side effects of using Madagascar herbal cure as President Rajoelina did not speak about any possible side effects of using the medicine. That is not to say that the cure does not have side effects as no research has been done on this.
However, the National Academy of Medicine of Madagascar cautioned people against using it via a statement last month.
They say: “It is a drug whose scientific evidence has not yet been established, and which risks damaging the health of the population, in particular, that of children.”
On the other hand, Artemisinin, which is the main ingredient in COVID Organics has a host of other side effects and should be used carefully. It is not advised to use Artemisinin with any other medication, unless with the approval of a doctor.
People who are using anti-seizure medication should not take Artemisinin as it can induce seizures or make the medication less effective. People with gastrointestinal problems also shouldn’t take Artemisinin.
Some of these side effects are skin rash, nausea, vomiting, tremors, and liver issues.
It is unknown if this drug works in all cases, or if the drug can be combined with other treatments. These questions can be answered, however, with proper clinical trials, which WHO is calling for.
Results so far from other countries using Madagascar herbal cure
The success rate of COVID Organics is still unknown as the drug has only recently been shipped abroad as some African countries opt to try the medicine.
Senegal was the first to approve the use of the herbal cure for treating Coronavirus patients.
“We are moving to use the Artemisia [the main component of the CVO]. On our side. We are evaluating it scientifically. We have given green light,” Daouda Ndiaye, head of the Senegalese scientific committee told local media on Thursday.
“We will work on a protocol to see how to give it to Senegalese patients,” he adds while cautioning members of the public against using it without medical supervision.
Other African countries including The Gambia and Nigeria have accepted Madagascar’s COVID-19 remedy. While The Gambia has received its shipment, Nigeria is still in the process of shipping the medicine from Guinea-Bissau.
“The consignment is part of a gift to ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] countries towards the fight against COVID-19. They have been delivered to the Ministry of Health,“ read a statement from the Gambian presidency.
In Nigeria, medical professionals have kicked against the importation of Madagascar herbal cure, stressing the fact that Nigeria has abundant resources to produce her own cure to the deadly pandemic.
The president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa said the decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria to import the herbal medicine is “thoroughly disgraceful”.
Ohuabunwa says: “The PSN has received the news that the Federal Government of Nigeria is about to import a herbal concoction called COVID Organics (CVO) from Madagascar with utter disbelief.
“While in principle we would not mind Nigerian government importing any new drug that is proven to cure COVID-19 or indeed any other disease for which we have neither the capacity, nor the technology to produce locally, we are totally appalled that Nigeria is about to spend scarce foreign exchange to ‘import coal into Newcastle’.
“Even if we are not going to pay for this, it is thoroughly disgraceful that a country that should be the leader of Africa, with the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will allow itself to be dragged this low.”
Meanwhile, in Equatorial Guinea, the recovery rate reportedly increased by 44% from five recoveries to 13 in five days after the country started implementing Madagascar’s COVID-19 cure.
Equatorial Guinea's Coronavirus recovery rate has increased by 44% from 9 recoveries to 13 in 5 days, after purchasing Madagascar's Coronavirus medicine.
— Africa Facts Zone (@AfricaFactsZone) May 5, 2020
In addition to Senegal’s approval of the cure, the South African government has also expressed a willingness to conduct a scientific analysis of the COVID Organics developed by Madagascar.
Results from the use of COVID Organics are not completely clear, but within a few weeks as more African countries test the drug and use it, then the efficacy of the drug can be evaluated.
Nigeria’s NIPRD conducts tests on Madagascar’s COVID Organics
Nigeria accepted Madagascar’s COVID Organics in May. At the time, Madagascar billed Nigeria €170,000 for the drug which was reported to work as a curative and a preventative.
Secretary-General of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, revealed on Monday, 13 May that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that the COVID Organics remedy from Madagascar is to be subjected to rigorous testing in order to confirm the validation of the medicine.
He said during the media briefing of the presidential task force in Abuja:
“Madagascar has made allocations to various countries and sent them to Guinea Bissau. We‘re supposed to make arrangements to freight Nigeria’s allocation from Guinea Bissau; it‘ll be subjected to the standard validation process for pharmaceuticals.
“Mr President has given instructions for the airlifting of Nigeria’s allocation of the Madagascar Covid-19 Syrup; also given clear instructions that it must be subjected to the standard validation process for pharmaceuticals; there will be no exceptions for this.
At the time, medical experts in the country, including pharmacists, nurses, and medical doctors have kicked against the Federal Government’s plan to import the tonic, citing the fact that Nigeria has enough resources within the country to develop her own cure.
The president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa said the decision by the FG to import the herbal medicine is “thoroughly disgraceful”.
At the time, President Buhari said Nigeria would take the drug through intensive tests to determine its suitability.
On Sunday, 19 July, the results from this test were released by Nigeria’s National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD).
In a statement, the NIPRD said that COVID Organics cannot successfully cure Coronavirus as claimed by the president of Madagascar.
The drug, which contains Artemisia, however, proved effective to cure cough, working like cough suppressant, dihydrocodeine.
The statement read: “Safety studies show that COVID ORGANICS (CVO) products do not alter the normal physiology of the animals.
“CVO caused a significant decrease in the platelet counts although the values are within the physiological range for Wistar rats.
“The increase in alkaline phosphatase observed in the CVO female group may indicate a cause of concern although the values are within the physiological ranges for Wistar rats and this was not observed in the organs.
“On the whole CVO can be considered safe based on the model used which did not cover other routes of administration, effects of long-term use, or organ histological evaluation of the test systems.
“CVO reduced cough frequency with the maximum dose tested producing an effect equivalent to that produced by the centrally acting cough-suppressant, dihydrocodeine.
“To further characterise this product based on its effect on the respiratory tract, it will be important to investigate its effect on tracheal mucus expectoration.
“While CVO dose-dependently reduced general febrile response, the effect was not sustained and was less than for indomethacin.”
The aftermath of using COVID Organics in Madagascar
On 20 April, Madagascar launched a proposed cure for Coronavirus, called COVID Organics, with President Andry Rajoelina describing it as a preventative and curative COVID-19 medicine.
However, less than a month later on 18 May, Madagascar recorded its first death from the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
A 57-year-old medical worker who suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, the national COVID-19 taskforce said on Sunday.
Taskforce spokeswoman Hanta Danielle Vololontiana said in a televised statement that the man died on Saturday night.
“A man died from COVID-19 in Madagascar … he is 57 years old and a member of the medical staff,” she says.
The development comes after several African countries including Nigeria have received a consignment of COVID Organics from Madagascar.
However, two months later, the country reimposed a lockdown in the country following a surge in the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.
This lockdown includes strong measures: only one member of a family is allowed to be outside from 6 am to noon. This lockdown is expected to continue until at least 20 July.
According to Worldometer, as at Thursday, 23 July, Madagascar has recorded 8,381 cases of Coronavirus in the country while 70 people have unfortunately succumbed to the virus.
5160 of those total confirmed cases have recovered from the virus while the country has 3151 active cases.
Madagascar has maintained since the beginning of April that it has created a cure to the deadly virus that has killed almost three hundred thousand people all over the world.
While the WHO, ECOWAS, and other governing bodies continue to warn people away from the virus, several African countries are taking delivery of the drug, with many of them reporting that the remedy is effective in curing their Coronavirus cases.
WHO insists that Madagascar herbal cure will have to undergo scientific clinical trials to ensure that it is fit for use, but for some reason, Madagascar has turned a deaf ear to the health body, insisting on collaborating with other African countries including Senegal and South Africa to test the drug.
Either way, Equatorial Guinea has reported an improvement in their treatment processes thanks to the cure and we will continue to monitor the developments with regards to this story.