Madagascar Finds Keen Takers for Tonic Touted as Virus Drug

(Bloomberg) -- Madagascar is building a factory to mass-produce a drink that’s touted by authorities and some African leaders as a ‘cure’ for Covid-19 even though it hasn’t been clinically tested or approved by drug regulators.

Sold as Covid-Organics, the drink contains extracts of the artimisia annua plant, which is used to treat malaria. The factory will be operational within a month, according to President Andry Rajoelina. “Our researchers and scientists are doing the necessary to make our coronavirus remedy a drug that meets the standards,” he said on state TV.

The president of Tanzania, John Magufuli, has said he’s sending a plane to Madagascar to fetch the tonic, and Rajoelina said on Twitter that Equatorial Guinea’s vice minister for health had arrived in the country to procure an unknown quantity. Other countries that have shown interest are Guinea-Bissau and Comoros, Rajoelina said.

While Senegal has also put in a purchase order, a doctor who’s instrumental in the country’s coronavirus response, Moussa Seydi, cautioned against the tonic in a televised debate late Monday.

”As a doctor, I wouldn’t use it before knowing the drug has been tried and tested in a laboratory,” Seydi said. “You need a study, with tests carried out on human beings.”

Medicinal plants such as artemisia annua should be “tested for efficacy and adverse side effects,” the World Health Organization said in a statement. “Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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