The World Health Organisation on Thursday advised governments to clinically test a herbal drink touted by Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina as a remedy against coronavirus.
The COVID-Organics infusion is derived from artemisia – a plant with proven anti-malarial properties – and other indigenous herbs.
Rajoelina hopes to distribute the infusion across West Africa and beyond, claiming it cures COVID-19 patients within 10 days.
Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Niger Republic have already received consignments of the potion. Others such as Tanzania have expressed interest.
But the World Health Organisation has repeatedly warned that there are no published scientific studies of the herbal tea and that its effects have not been tested.
“We would caution and advise countries against adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy,” WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said in a press briefing on Thursday, calling on Madagascar to take the drink “through a clinical trial”.
Moeti said that in 2000, African governments had committed to taking “traditional therapies” through the same clinical trials as other medication.
“I can understand the need, the drive to find something that can help,” Moeti said. “But we would very much like to encourage this scientific process in which the governments themselves made a commitment.”
Rajoelina defended his tonic during a coronavirus screening campaign in Madagascar’s eastern city of Toamasina on Thursday.
“The WHO has indicated that artemisia could lead to a cure for coronavirus,” the president said, promising to submit the drink to clinical trials.