PaxHerbal Cugzin: An oral herbal vaccine against COVID-19

Niyi Akinnaso

Toward the end of my article on this column last week (see Nigeria and the Coronavirus vaccine race, The Nation, July 5, 2023), one of the questions I raised was about the contribution of Nigerian scientists toward the cure of the coronavirus or of a vaccine against it in the light of the Federal Government’s investment in same through special funds being dispensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

I have not heard from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, to whom I addressed the questions. Fortunately, however, after a tip-off by a friend, I learned about a privately funded indigenous company, Pax Herbal Clinic and Research Laboratories, founded by Father Anselm Adodo and located in Ewu-Esan, Edo state. The Lab has been in operation for about 25 years and has been producing and distributing indigenous herbs across the country.

On the advent of the novel coronavirus, code-named COVID-19, the Lab scientists went to work and arrived at a combination of three major herbs, namely, bitter kola (orogbo in Yoruba); ginger (ata-ile or ata’le in Yoruba) and tumeric. Each of these herbs has been used from time immemorial across the globe to control or treat one infection/disease or the other or merely used as spice.

The combination of herbs contains, various ingredients, including 6-paradol, gingerol, kolaflavanone, kolanone, curcumene, á- and â-turmerone and notable vitamins and minerals, such as Copper, Zinc, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium.

The blend of phyto-medicinal constituents of the drug exhibits potent anti-infective, immune-modulatory, anti-inflammatory effects. The constituents synergistically inhibit autoimmune diseases by regulating inflammatory cytokines and triggering the immune system to combat and overwhelm any invader. It is in this sense that the herb combination acts as an oral vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

The anti-inflammatory property of the herbal drug is particularly significant, given the high incidence of blot clots found in the late stages of treatment in many patients, who contracted COVID-19. This herbal drug is expected to prevent such clots from forming in the first place. What is even more interesting about the drug is the lack of side effects. Of course, none is expected since the herbs have been in use from time immemorial.

The herbal drug has been packaged in 290mg Capsules, encapsulated in gelatin shells. The Capsule is characterized by a green-yellow colour blend, has a slightly bitter taste and pungent smell. The recommended dosage is two Capsules taken with a glass of water twice daily.

The drug’s use is not limited to the treatment of patients with COVID-19 alone. It is also useful in the treatment and management of compromised immunity and symptoms caused by viral infections. Moreover, it is a powerful anti-oxidant. During a pandemic, such as the one posed by COVID-19, the drug’s full “vaccine” effect lies in its continuous use as a prophylaxis.

Already, the drug has passed through preclinical trials and has been approved for human trials by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control with NAFDAC REG. NO. A7-4358L. It was this approval that some overzealous bloggers and social media enthusiasts misunderstood. Yet, neither Pax Herbals nor NAFDAC ever presented the drug as a cure for COVID-19.

In the meantime, those who have taken part in the preliminary human trials, including COVID-19 patients, have expressed satisfaction with the drug.

However, promising as this drug may be, the bureaucratic red tape on human trials remains a serious challenge, especially for cash-strapped Labs like Pax Herbals. What is more, the red tape is even much thicker with accessing funds, which the Presidential Task Force repeatedly confirmed that the Federal Government had set aside to be administered by the Central Bank. Yet, the Central Bank’s website provides no clear path for accessing the fund.

In a telephone conversation with Father Adodo as recently as yesterday, August 11, 2023, he expressed frustration with the bureaucracies of human trials and funding access in the country. To further complicate matters, the government has yet to provide the necessary protocols for conducting human trials for herbal drugs. Yet, it would not accept the adaptation of the existing protocols for pharmaceutical drugs.

However, Pax Herbals is not alone. Even the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), located at Redeemer University in Ede, Osun State, is already at a disadvantage in its collaboration with Cambridge University in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. In all probability the clinical trials for the vaccine will be based in Cambridge, rather than in Ede or both owing to rampant shortcomings and inadequacies for which Nigeria is noted.

As Professor Oyewale Tomori, Nigeria’s foremost virologist and infectious diseases expert, rightly observed, Nigeria lacks the necessary laboratories for clinical trials and does not have the basic infrastructure (electricity, water, and adequate facilities) essential for vaccine production. He concluded with a poignant suggestion, if not indictment: “The government has to put all of the infrastructure in place. It is not the duty of citizens or private practices to do so”.

However, unlike ACEGID, Pax Herbals has no foreign partner. Nor does it even need one if its product were to be truly indigenous. Nevertheless, the hurdles highlighted above may well explain why laudable efforts at developing local herbs, such as Pax Herbals’, often die at the clinical trial stage.

Given the promise shown by PaxHerbal Cugzin, it will be very unfortunate if Father Adodo’s efforts were not properly nurtured, despite NAFDAC’s encouragement for the drug to proceed to human trials.

It will be even more unfortunate if the drug were sold to a foreign pharmaceutical company and re-marketed to Nigeria. Federal and state governments will then be ready to purchase it at an exorbitant price for use in government hospitals. Why not invest in the effort now and make PaxHerbal Cugzin an authentic Nigerian product?

Source: The Street Journal

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