Nigeria agency faults professor’s HIV cure claim

adewole-health-minister
Isaac Adewole, Minister of Health.

The National Centre for Disease Control has faulted the claim by a Nigerian professor of discovering the cure for HIV.

Maduike Ezeibe, a Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Virology at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umuahia was widely reported of developing a drug that eliminated the deadly virus in some patients.

Mr. Ezeibe reportedly said the drug, which was produced with “Aluminium Magnesium Silicate”, had the clinical ability to “reach all cells” and make HIV “a conquered organism”. He said the drug was successfully tested on 10 persons living with HIV.

Reacting to the reports, federal health authorities, including the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, called for caution over the claim.

The minister said the Federal Government had directed relevant agencies to scrutinise the claim.

But speaking on the development on Tuesday, the centre for disease control said the claim was yet to pass through the necessary clinical trials and therefore could not be certified to be true.

The agency said for the drug to be certified, it has to pass four stages of clinical trials.

According to the NCDC, the method used for the trials of Mr. Ezeibe’s drug was questionable and did not conform with the ethics of drug testing.

“It is not new to find a scientist using ambiguous scientific methods and practices to buttress this claim, and to find obscure journals increasingly prepared to publish these claims,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.

“To examine the facts, this study was published in two little known journals and involved less than ten patients. In the “clinical trial” as reported, there was no evidence of the use of controls, which is the basis of all efficacy trials.

“There was no evidence of the use of controls, which is the basis of all efficacy trials. Without controls, you can neither have randomisation nor blinding, two other critical factors in studying the effects of new medicines.”

The agency said the primary outcome measured in the test study was based on plasma viral load levels that are known to fluctuate in patients, even in the absence of any intervention, adding, “it is worth noting that virological suppression (viral load of less than 50 copies/ml) was not achieved in 6 of the patients.”

It said there was no evidence of the clinical and treatment status of the patients at the beginning, or at the end of the trials.

“One critical issue is that there was no evidence from the publication that the authors obtained ethical clearance from an appropriate body in Nigeria to conduct this study, and only ambiguous evidence that informed consent was sought from the evidently vulnerable patients.

“As a result of the above issues with this process, there is really no basis for a claim to cure of AIDS in this study.”

The agency expressed worry about the implication of the announcement on HIV patients, who may discontinue their current antiretorivral treatments.

“We are concerned that the publicity given to these claims will stop patients with HIV from taking life-saving antiretrovirals and give them false hope of a cure. It will be a great disservice to this vulnerable group of patients for the media to disseminate these claims in the absence of sound scientific evidence,” NCDC said.

The claim for a cure for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria is not new. In the late 1990s, another Nigerian scientist, Jeremiah Abalaka, had claimed to have developed a vaccine for the disease but the claim was discredited.


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