The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has urged institutions and individuals not to spread false information regarding the novel disease COVID-19 saying it undermines effort being made.
The warning came after the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), had issued a statement alleging that a drug called Interferon had been manufactured in Cuba which cures coronavirus, the information which was later alleged to be false.
Nehawu had called for the South African government to procure the vaccine from Cuba. However, in refuting the statement as false, SAHPRA said such a drug has not been approved by any international health bodies.
SAHPRA spokesperson Yuven Gounden maintained that the only correct information was from the World Health Organisation that there was still no cure for the killer virus, Covid-19.
“I am not sure where Nehawu is getting the information from, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) thinks differently. We have not heard of anything like this as we follow the WHO guidelines, and if something like that was developed, we would be the first to go and put it out there,” said Gounden.
Gaunden said the outbreak of the virus has seen an upsurge in fake news as some receive and spread unverified information.
“So we advise people to look at the credible websites, one of them is the WHO and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases that is based here in South Africa. Look at the Department of Health website. Those three websites will give you credible information because Interferon is not something we have heard of,” said Gounden.
Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha had issued a statement alleging that BioCubaFarma, part of the Cuban pharmaceutical industry, had produced the drug that was effective in fighting the virus.
“BioCubaFarma … has been supplying the drug to many countries that have realised the effectiveness of the drug hence we appeal to our government to procure it from the Cuban government,” said Saphetha in a statement released on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Health spokesperson Popo Maja also refuted Nehawu’s claim that a drug has been developed.
“We only use drugs that have been registered by South African health authorities, and if it is not registered in South Africa, we will not use it. Individuals within the department, like myself, have heard about it (Interferon), but there has not been any formal communiqué," added Maja.
“It is possible that we have been notified (about the drug), but our medical control council would have to look at it,” said Maja.
Saphetha stood by the guns maintaining that Cuba had found the cure.
“Our statement did not say that we must undermine regulations. We have said that the government of South Africa must do everything including procuring this kind of medication from Cuba. It means that they must follow the necessary laws that regulate the exchange of drugs and medicine,” said Saphetha.
Since the initial outbreak, this coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, has spread to more than 100 countries around the world, and has affected many thousands of people claiming many lives.
As yet, according to the WHO there’s no vaccine against the novel coronavirus. But researchers are currently working on creating a vaccine specifically for this virus, as well as potential treatments for COVID-19.