Kenya Takes Stand on Controversial Covid-19 Treatment

  • Medical practitioners at a Coronavirus isolation and treatment facility in Mbagathi District Hospital on Friday, March 6, 2020.
    Medical practitioners at a Coronavirus isolation and treatment facility in Mbagathi District Hospital on Friday, March 6, 2020.
    Simon Kiragu
  • Head of Infectious Diseases Unit at Kenyatta National Hospital, Loice Ombajo has revealed that the government will only consider using chloroquine in severe cases of Covid-19.

    The Pharmacy And Poisons Board on Thursday, March 26 had banned the over-the-counter sale of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine without a valid prescription.

    In an interview with Citizen TV on March 31, Ombajo shed some light on the drug, "Studies have shown that when hydroxychloroquine is used in combination with an antibiotic for the treatment of patients who had Covid-19, they noticed that the patients got better a little sooner, did not progress as much as expected but they also did not shed virus as much as expected."

    An image of Loice Ombajo
    Head of Infectious Diseases at Kenyatta National Hospital Loice Ombajo speaking at a past interview.

    Kenyans started stockpiling chloroquine after reports had emerged that the drug can be used to treat Coronavirus. 

    Chloroquine is a malaria drug that has not been in use for a while and can also be used to treat lupus, which is an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues.

    Obanjo revealed that the government is considering using the drug but under certain conditions, "We have given it some thought and we have reviewed a lot of data and literature that is coming in from other countries and some of us are soon going to be involved in some clinical trials as well.

    "This is something that could be considered in patients who are very severe or rapidly deteriorating and the reason why it might be considered in this group of patients is that there is risk of death and they tend to shed virus for a long, time which means they remain infectious for a long time.

    "Because of the lack of enough evidence around it we have not really recommended it for people who have mild a form of the disease but as you can imagine with everything Covid-19, we are learning there is a lot of rapid change happening.

    "Where we have rapid deterioration then I think this is something we can consider and of course, as more data becomes available, we begin to learn from other experiences," she added. 

    The Food and Drug Administration in the US on Tuesday, March 31, approved the use of chloroquine on patients suffering from Covid-19.

    Ombajo, however, warned against Kenyans stocking the drug, "A drug like hydroxychloroquine is used for other conditions so for example in this country we use it for people who have lupus which is a fairly life-threatening condition which is not well managed it can lead to a lot of organ failure.

    "These are patients who depend a lot of these drugs, if we go out and start buying these drugs and hoard them then we deny life-saving therapy to other patients." she cautioned.