Dr Arun Balaganga, Medical Director, Indian International Healthcare Centre, Abuja says there is likely to be a breakthrough in the search for a drug or vaccine for COVID-19, latest by June.
Mr Balaganga, an Indian doctor resident in Abuja, dropped this hint in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.
According to him, 15 pharmaceutical companies, including JOHNSON and JOHNSON, as well as PFIZER and SANOFI, are already working on different drugs and vaccines which are at different stages of clinical trials.
“China and India are already using hydroxychloroquine to treat patients of the virus.
“Right now, there are no vaccine trials in India to the best of my knowledge, but there are lists of 12 to 15 companies working on different combinations.
“Nobody likes to live in a compromised situation; everybody is doing the best, but if some kind of drug trials is successful, then, probably in one or two months time, we will be in a position to contain the virus if we have the proper drugs.
“Some of the drugs can be ready in two months because they are in the phase three of the clinical trials so those drugs can be ready.
“Pharmaceutical company GILEAD is working on a drug called REMDESIVIR that is in clinical phase trial three, then ABABY is working on LOPINAVIR- RITONAVIR combination (second line HIV drug), and it’s also in phase three of the clinical trial.
“So, basically, if they are proving effective, then there is actually hope for all of us. Vaccination trial has already started in different parts of the world,” Balaganga said.
He explained that every country had its own system of approval not subjected to the World Health Organisation, WHO.
Mr Balaganga said that drugs produced in Nigeria must be subjected to the approval of NAFDAC, just as the ones produced in India are subjected to Drug Control.
“But how countries do it is if it’s a patent drug what they do is pre-clinical trials in the laboratory, then the clinical trials, using animals and a small group of human-beings.
“The next stage is using a larger population and finally a multi-centered blind trial around the world before drawing up a solid conclusion that the drug is definitely used for a particular condition.
“Hopefully, at this point, I don’t think the companies will try to claim patents and other things because it should be made available to other countries in this current situation,” he added.
He urged the public to desist from spreading false news on the virus while discouraging self medication.
The medical expert frowned at the call by some French doctors that African should be used as testing ground for some of the vaccines, noting that no race should be used as guinea pig for the COVID-19 vaccine.
He, however, said that factors like genomic mapping and genetic susceptibility level could have necessitated the French doctors’ suggestion.
“A clinical trial is done in a way and manner to prove the effectiveness of a drug. There has to be a global trend because we can see many susceptible reports of clients with genomic mapping.
“So, if we see the genetic susceptibility is likely lesser in African patients, that means that probably some genetic make-ups could be the reason why some people think it is better in Africa.
“But such trial should be conducted everywhere in the world because the genetic make-up of people in different continent differ, so a drug, which is actually effective in India, may have so many side effects on the Europeans.
“The same drugs may be much more effective in Nigeria, so only a myopic country or blinded clinical trials could reach a conclusion.
“Some people see African and India as third world countries and that is not always the case. Everything has advantage and disadvantage.
“European countries and the U.S. that claimed to have the best kind of health system have collapsed in the face of COVID-19, while the likes of Nigeria and India are still holding strong.”
He called on the WHO to rally round countries and discourage people from politicising the infection or making racist comment on the pandemic.