Investigating the use of plant-based artemisinin against COVID-19

In May 2020, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, hailed the use of remdesivir in NHS treatment of patients with COVID-19.

Although this is a welcome development, more effective drugs still need to be developed, because — apart from the minimal effectiveness of remdesivir — per treatment, it is very expensive.

It is concerning that for all of the ongoing clinical trials against COVID-19, listed in ‘Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 therapy trials’, none of the treatments are plant-based remedies. But pharmacognosy is worth exploring.

Andry Rajoelina, president of Madagascar, has claimed that use of a plant-based remedy called Covid-Organics — made from the plant Artemisia annua — can both prevent and cure COVID-19. However, the World Health Organization advised against “adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy”.

Compounds artemisinin and artemether can be derived from Artemisia annua, and offer safe and effective treatment for malaria; perhaps the benefits of these drugs could be explored in the treatment of COVID-19.

 

Victoria Akomolafe, hospital and community pharmacist, Essex

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, September 2020;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208319