Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has pledged the support of the Federal Government for a team of Nigerian professors and scientists investigating the efficacy of ivermectin — a drug used to treat river blindness — against COVID.
Osinbajo made the pledge on Monday when he was briefed by a team of Nigerian scientists led by Femi Babalola, a professor and principal investigator of the research effort, and Chris Bode, chief medical director of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).
The team — the IVERCOVID research group — worked on a project titled: “A Randomised Controlled Trial for the Repurposing of Ivermectin in the Management of COVID-19”, which examined the effectiveness of the drug in the “treatment of patients with virology proven COVID-19 disease.”
According to a statement by Laolu Akande, his media aide, Osinbajo applauded the efforts of the team, and said the Federal Government will support the research.
“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,” Osinbajo was quoted to have said.
The Vice-President noted Nigeria is at an advantage, since ivermectin has been found useful not only in the treatment of COVID-19, but also as a prophylactic medication.
According to the statement by Akande, the other members of the research group are Lanre Adeyemo, chairman of the medical advisory council at LUTH; Adesuyi Ajayi, a US-based clinical pharmacologist; S.A. Omilabu and Olumuyiwa Salu, both project virologists; and Felix Alakaloko, the project coordinator
“The research, carried out in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital was undertaken 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 statement reads.
“In its results so far, the study noted that 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 5.”
“The study indicated that clinical trials of Ivermectin have been carried out in at least 21 countries worldwide, including Nigeria. It referenced the “Meta-analysis 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 emphasised that Ivermectin “is not meant to replace other COVID-19 measures such as social distancing, face masking and hygiene, or vaccinations. It is possibly an additional tool which can be deployed to fight the pandemic.”
Akande added that the group said a report of its findings had been submitted to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
Although there have been research efforts globally on the efficacy of ivermectin, scientists are yet to agree on the use of the drug for treating COVID.