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Madagascar’s president said WHO supporting clinical observations of Covid-Organics, not endorsing it as cure

“Finally, WHO declares support for Madagascar’s claim over Covid-19 cure,” reads the headline of an article on the Nigerian website Timely Post.

The article, from 21 May 2020, says the World Health Organization, or WHO, has congratulated Madagascar for developing Covid-Organics, a plant-based remedy launched as a “cure” for the new coronavirus

It adds that Malagasy president Andry Rajoelina tweeted that the WHO was considering Covid-Organics for clinical observation. 

This article was flagged as potentially false by Facebook’s fact-checking system. We investigated.

Covid-Organics controversial, untested

Rajoelina unveiled the herbal remedy on 20 April, claiming that it had already cured two people. The remedy is based on among others, artemisia, a plant that has uses in malaria treatment.

Covid-Organics has been shipped to some African countries despite not having undergone clinical trials. The African Union has asked for scientific data proving that the treatment works. The WHO has also warned against remedies that have not been tested. 

Clinical ‘observations’, not clinical trials, says Rajoelina

On 21 May Rajoelina tweeted that he had discussed Madagascar’s efforts against Covid-19, including Covid-Organics, with WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Successful exchange with @DrTedros who commends #Madagascar’s efforts in the fight against #Covid19. @WHO will sign a confidentiality clause on the formulation of the #CovidOrganics and will support the clinical observations process in #Africa,” Rajoelina tweeted in English and French. 

A week earlier Rajoelina said in an interview with the French media outlet France24 that Covid-19 was being tested through clinical observations, rather than clinical trials

He said Covid-Organics was “an enhanced traditional remedy”, which “warrants a validation system that is different from that of a drug”. 

“We are not conducting clinical trials but rather clinical observations in line with guidelines from WHO. We have fully complied with universally recognised standards of ethics for clinical research and studies.”

Observations typically do not involve any intervention by researchers.  

The WHO has said that artemisia and other traditional medicinal plants are being investigated as possible Covid-19 treatments. 

Article misleading

But while Rajoelina tweeted that the WHO had congratulated Madagascar for its efforts against Covid-19, he did not say the organisation had congratulated Madagascar for Covid-Organics as a cure specifically.

Rajoelina did say that the WHO told him it supports the clinical observations process for the Madagascan remedy Covid-Organics. But this is not the same as “declaring support” for the tonic as an all-out “cure”.  

In response, the WHO on 21 May tweeted that it was “supporting Madagascar and other countries in Africa to generate evidence on the quality, safety and efficacy of traditional medicines proposed for Covid19 treatment.” 

The article also claims Rajoelina said that “the WHO offered his country the sum of $20m as a bribe to poison” Covid-Organics. He said no such thing. – Naledi Mashishi


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