President Museveni has given Gulu University the go-ahead to continue the development of Covilyce-1, a herbal drug developed by the university and believed to cure Covid-19 in 72 hours. The President made the declaration on Wednesday while meeting a team of four scientists from Gulu University to discuss the status of Covilyce-1 development and how to progress with it. A highly placed source, who attended the meeting but asked to remain anonymous, said the President was impressed with the team but wanted to understand what its viability is. Mr James Onono, the university’s deputy spokesman, said the President gave the go-ahead to Dr Alice Lamwaka, the lead researcher of the drug, and her team to continue to produce the drug without interference. “The President insisted that the drugs be registered and patented in the principal investigator’s name while the university gets a share of it, to protect, encourage and promote the scientists to do greater works,” Mr Onono said. Mr Onono said the meeting with the President yielded three key action points including a directive that the university is availed more than Shs3b to industrialise the production of the drug.
“The meeting agreed that Dr Lamwaka and her team be supported for further clinical development of Covilyce-1 with Shs3.7b immediately. They have also agreed that observatory tests for the drug be conducted at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital,” he said. Repeated attempts to speak to Dr Lamwaka for a comment were futile since she could not answer our calls.However, the President’s position on the development of the Covilyce-1 drug contradicts a directive by the National Drug Authority (NDA) that the university cease production and marketing of the product until it formalises its production. On Monday, NDA warned the university against putting the drug on the market. “This product has not been approved. It shouldn’t be on the market and the innovators have been warned. Before we certify a product, it shouldn’t be used as we can’t guarantee its safety,” NDA tweeted. Mr Abiaz Rwamiri, the NDA spokesman, later told Daily Monitor that a team from the authority had been sent to the university to establish who authorised the production of the drug and what procedures they are following. “What we don’t agree with is that this product is being used on anyone without completing the study because there are guidelines for testing the drug and we have not given any approval for the drug to be used outside the laboratory,” he added. On Tuesday, the university rejected a set of conditions issued by NDA to be met before fronting Covilyce-1 on the market, which include declaring the contents of the drug by naming the details of each plant as well as declare the formula they are using to create it.But Dr Lamwaka said: “We told the team that we cannot name the plants because Covilyce-1 is still a lab-based product, which is not officially in the market. It is too early to show them the formula because we are still continuing with research on the herbs. We are indeed giving the patients the herbs, but we are just helping because we are facing a pandemic.” Mr Rwamiri said the NDA agreed with the university to withdraw the product until scientific analysis and approval has been made. But the NDA yesterday said they were happy about the funding that the university had secured following the President’s directive. “If it is indeed true that they [Gulu University] have secured the funding, we as NDA congratulate them. We hope it will help them in developing their herbal medicine and ensure that they follow all guides to achieve safety, quality and efficacy of the drug.”