A Durban pharmacologist is under investigation after claiming to have developed an oral anti-Covid-19 drug. Picture: Reuters
A Durban pharmacologist is under investigation after claiming to have developed an oral anti-Covid-19 drug. Picture: Reuters

Pharmacologist investigated for alleged bogus anti-Covid-19 treatment

By Nathan Craig Time of article published Jan 17, 2021

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DURBAN - A Durban pharmacologist is being investigated by the health ministry for claiming that he developed an anti-Covid-19 drug treatment.

On December 6, the Sunday Tribune published an article where a clinical pharmacologist claimed to have developed the HIM20 drug treatment which he touted as the world's first, orally active and specifically anti-Covid-19 drug.

But since the publication, he was reported to Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize by Professor Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of the ministerial advisory committee and director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) which reports to the health minister, confirmed that they were conducting the investigation into the pharmacologist and his drug. SAHPRA investigators said the trial was was not registered.

SAHPRA spokesperson Yuven Gounden said, with the assistance of law enforcement, they were investigating the matter and tracking the whereabouts of the medicines to be removed from the market.

“We were notified on December 14 and commenced our investigation on December 17. Our next step in the investigation will be to lay a criminal charge in collaboration with law enforcement against him. He will be charged with contravening the Medicines and Related Substances Act, as his clinical study and the medicine are not approved,” he said.

Gounden said the investigation was ongoing.

The pharmacologist told the paper and according to his LinkedIn profile stated he was an associate professor of pharmacology and the chief executive of both his private research company and a group of pharmacies.

He lectured in the department of emergency medical care, but a full professorship was not granted.

The Durban University of Technology’s senior director of corporate affairs, Alan Khan, said the university distanced itself from the trial.

“Currently, there is no DUT professor with a background in clinical pharmacology, and we also confirm that there is currently no Covid-19 drug trial which is being conducted at DUT, nor approved by the DUT Research Ethics Committee.”

Professor Ashley Ross, DUT’s interim executive dean of health sciences, said: “Current legislation states all clinical trials must be approved by SAHPRA. The university would not support any trial conducted without such prior approval.”

The pharmacologist said he conducted the trial on a private basis.

“I used my own resources and did not conduct it under the auspices of the government or DUT. In the beginning, when I began research last year, I had approached institutions, but after receiving no joy, I conducted it in a private capacity through my own company and with my own team.”

Attorney Reeves Parsee, representing the pharmacologist, said the attempts to discredit the work done could not be tolerated, and any suggestion that this was a new drug or medication administered without approval was mischievous and misplaced.

“No protocol was submitted to anyone. No protocols are required to bring relief to patients if treated in this fashion, and no protocols have been requested. All the drugs used to treat patients are in circulation and are fully approved. The drugs have no known side effects that might endanger the affected patients in any way. The drugs are used in combination with other therapeutic established methods. The treatment method has yielded excellent results, and the combination of the drug and therapeutic method is safe and acceptable.”

Sunday Tribune

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