Following media reports that the M5 MediGroup (Traditional Practitioners) had positive results from their own testing of a potential “alternative remedy” for COVID-19, the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) has made clear that all tests on the herbal product would proceed according to recognized medical protocols and laws.
The M5 MediGroup approached the university in 2020 to conduct tests to provide proof that their product presented a potential “alternative remedy” for COVID-19.
In January 2021, the traditional healers group handed over samples of their herbal product to SMU, the MedicalBrief reported.
The Times reports that M5 MediGroup spokesperson Mogale Mogale said last week that they had tested their herbal product on more than 500 Covid-19 patients from Rustenburg, Soweto, Boksburg, and Limpopo and received positive feedback from their patients.
Role of traditional medicine
Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) said as the only dedicated health sciences university in the country, it respects the importance of indigenous knowledge systems and the role of traditional medicine in our healthcare system
“SMU is committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards and in promoting excellence in all research collaborations and partnerships, remain paramount,” SMU and the M5 MediGroup said in a joint statement.
The university said it was approached by M5 MediGroup in 2020 to test the safety and efficacy of an herbal product prepared by the healers and presented as a potential “alternative remedy” for SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 infection.
“During January 2021, a formal collaboration was established with the M5 MediGroup and the group handed over samples of their herbal product to SMU, with the understanding that the University will follow all its ethical clearance processes to scientifically evaluate the herbal mixture for safety and efficacy.”
However, it was recently reported in the press that the M5 MediGroup had administered their herbal product to more than 500 COVID-19 patients from Rustenburg, Soweto, Boksburg and Limpopo and received positive feedback from their patients thereof.
In the light of the above, the University and the traditional healers said they deemed it proper to “clarify that the process to administer the herbal product had occurred prior to the establishment of the relationship between the University and the M5 MediGroup.”
“It was done within the scope of the practice of the group of traditional health practitioners.”
Within the existing partnership to test the group’s observational findings, the understanding between the two parties is that the University would develop research protocols to be approved by the SMU Research Ethics Committee (SMUREC) for testing the herbal product.
Furthermore, the joint statement added, the University will only administer the herbal remedies or products to patients “once safety has been proven and efficacy established.”
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) would also have to approve the tested product before further distribution.
WHO weighs in
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had previously said that it recognises traditional medicine in developing new COVID-19 treatments but cautioned against lack of evidence.
The UN’s health agency said it recognizes that traditional, complementary, and alternative medicine has many benefits and Africa has a long history of traditional medicine and practitioners that play an important role in providing care to populations.
“As efforts are underway to find treatment for COVID-19, caution must be taken against misinformation, especially on social media, about the effectiveness of certain remedies. Many plants and substances are being proposed without the minimum requirements and evidence of quality, safety, and efficacy.”
“The use of products to treat COVID-19, which have not been robustly investigated can put people in danger, giving a false sense of security and distracting them from hand washing and physical distancing which are cardinal in COVID-19 prevention, and may also increase self-medication and the risk to patient safety.”