The country’s president claims the Covid-Organics herbal drink has cured people, but there is no scientific evidence.
Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina has claimed that the locally produced Covid-Organics herbal tonic cures, and can prevent, Covid-19 after a week.
“Tests have been carried out – two people have now been cured by this treatment,” Mr Rajoelina said at the launch in April 2020 of Covid-Organics at the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (Imra), which developed the tonic.
“This herbal tea gives results in seven days,” said the president, who also urged people to use it as a preventative measure.
But the World Health Organization is clear in its advice that there is no medicine currently available that can prevent or cure Covid-19.
The UN’s health agency has said that it supports “scientifically-proven” traditional medicine, but that Africans “deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world”.
The herbal tonic is derived from artemisia – a plant which contains an ingredient used to treat malaria – along with other plants sourced within the country.
It was being marketed in a bottle as a herbal tea after being tested on fewer than 20 people over a period of three weeks, the president’s chief of staff Lova Hasinirina Ranoromaro told the BBC.
Online rumours that the African Union and the WHO have both validated the use of Covid-Organics as a cure or preventative treatment for Covid-19 are false.
Claims that Madagascar has left the AU as a result of a row over Covid-Organics are also false.
There is currently no proven cure for Covid-19, as publicly stated by the World Health Organization.
In response to the launch of Covid-Organics, the WHO said, in a statement sent to the BBC, that the global organisation did not recommend “self-medication with any medicines… as a prevention or cure for Covid-19”.
It reiterated earlier comments by WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that there were “no short-cuts” to finding effective mediation to fight coronavirus.
Madagascar’s national medical academy (Anamem) has also cast doubt on the efficacy of the president’s touted prevention and remedy.
It said it had the potential to damage people’s health as its “scientific evidence had not been established”.
There has been no peer-reviewed research into the effectiveness of Covid-Organics against Covid-19.