Covid-19: Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria adopt chloroquine. What about the rest of Africa?

Marseilles professor Didier Raoult advocates the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus.

The challenge is at once medical, financial and geopolitical. As the debate rages on among doctors over the efficacy of chloroquine against the new coronavirus Covid-19, states have taken the lead. The American Donald Trump sees it as a miracle cure when the Frenchman Emmanuel Macron relates to a scientific committee boycotted recently by the atypical Didier Raoult, this outside system infectologist, head of the Hospital-University Institute (IHU) Méditerranée Infection de Marseille, some say “new Christ”, others say “madman”.

Meanwhile, the race for stocks has started around the world. The Moroccan government requisitioned the stock of chloroquine available in the country from Sanofi laboratories, the only one in the country that produces the two chloroquine drugs – Nivaquine and Plaquenil, used against covid-19.

Neighboring Algeria has a largely sufficient stock, according to the authorities. In this context, Dr Bekkat Berkani, president of the Council of the Order of Physicians and member of the scientific committee for monitoring and follow-up of the evolution of the epidemic of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), announced Tuesday in a statement on the waves of a local radio that the Ministry of Health began to test the drug with some serious cases infected with the virus “Coronavirus” hospitalized El Kettar hospital in Algiers. Another Maghreb country, Tunisia where the Director of basic health care, Chokri Hamouda, announced on Tuesday March 24, the start of basic clinical trials in coordination with the national drug control laboratory, the national center for pharmacovigilance, and the national authority for evaluation and accreditation in Health (INEAS). The country has procured significant quantities of chloroquine.

On the other side of the Sahara bank, skepticism seems to prevail over the view of chloroquine as a miracle cure for covid-19. In Senegal, Professor Pr Daouda Ndiaye, head of the parasitology service at Aristide Le Dantec hospital, believes, in an interview with WalfQuotidien, that “ there is no formal evidence ” to say that chloroquine treat this disease.

Dry pharmacies?

Despite this sudden interest in one of the best known drugs in Africa, there is no particular excitement among individuals, nor anticipation from the public authorities to acquire this drug whose price is called to increase. Le Figaro of March 22 wrote that in a few days, “the pharmacists’ reserves were put to dry” in Burkina Faso, Senegal but also in Central Africa, in Cameroon. On the other hand, surveys conducted from March 11 by the West African network Anthropology of Emerging Epidemics, in connection with the Sonar-Global network, indicated that African traders have built up stocks to meet demand. Parallel networks from Nigeria and India would rub their hands. To counter the proliferation of illicit trade, Interpol conducted an operation to combat the online trade in counterfeit medical products between March 3 and 10, arrested 121 people and seized the equivalent of $ 14 million in potentially dangerous products , including currently unauthorized antivirals against the coronavirus such as chloroquine.

In the United States, if Donald Trump assured that chloroquine could be quickly available “on prescription”, the Food and drug administration (FDA) has, it, nuanced the presidential promises. “The president asked us to take a closer look at this drug. We want to do that by setting up a large, pragmatic clinical trial to collect this information and answer any questions that arise, “said director of the drug regulatory authority Stephen Hahn.

In France, the only production unit, Famar, released by the KKR investment fund, in receivership and in search of a buyer, could be worth its gold price if Professor Raout, like an Ignace Semmelweis who had discovered with Pastor the benefits of hand washing in a hospital environment but had to face, his lifetime, the conservatism of science, won the battle, maintained that it is by public opinion and a large petition addressed to President Emmanuel Macron.

Chloroquine is not an innovation, however. Used for 70 years against malaria, it is one of the best-known medicines in Africa, even though it is essentially imported like most basic necessities.

In short, in the coming weeks, we will witness a race towards the production and purchase of chloroquine. Sanofi is already offering to make several million doses available to France to treat 300,000 patients free of charge. Switzerland’s Novartis has 130 million tablets and launches a $ 20 million global aid fund when Bayer organizes production urgently and the Israeli Teva offers 6 million doses to American hospitals. An old, low-cost drug produced in secondary units, chloroquine was given a second lease of life with Covid-19.

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