Dr. Patrick Ogwang, the brains behind the making of Covidex, a herbal treatment for viral infections, has shared an intriguing story of what inspired the manufacture of the drug.
Amid Uganda’s second wave of the covid-19 pandemic, the introduction of Covidex on the market has been for many a much needed ray of hope in the management of the prevailing virus.
For over 17 years, Ogwang has been studying plants he eventually used to make covidex. These plants are said to be found majorly in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
The lecturer at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) said his love for natural medicinal research dates way back to childhood when his mother could administer herbal medicine upon getting any kind of illness.
Growing up with a single mother who preferred natural remedies to modern drugs, Ogwang and his siblings hardly ever went to a hospital.
“So whenever we would have a sickness like measles, malaria, she would go to that fireplace where the herbs were hanged and get some for us. Within two days, we would be back to school,” he said.
Adding: “The only disease we would take to the hospital was anemia. But other diseases like malaria, cough, whatever it was, mum would treat us from home.”
Dr. Ogwang has a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy. His interest grew in Pharmacognosy, the study of drugs produced from natural sources.
“When I was doing my masters, I joined the Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute (NCRI) Wandegeya led by Dr. Grace Nambatya,” Ogwang said.
Yearning to be a volunteer, he was later recruited on merit and begun interacting with Ugandan herbalists and focused on Ugandan plants.
“So working in that place gave me the applicability of the class knowledge into the Ugandan practical situation,” he added.
Using natural herbs to cure illnesses
Ogwang says he has been researching two plants for 17 years.
After promising results on a formula he administered on a relative with sickle cell disease, Dr. Ogwang intensified the research.
Zanthoxylum chalybeum, known as Eusuk (ateso), and Ntale ya ddungu (luganda) was a major component in the formula.
“So I began researching on this plant, to help this boy. I had read a paper by Nigerians that a similar plant was used to treat sick cell. I begun studying it to look at safety, the compounds in it and published papers on it. Then I made a formula for this young man. He stopped getting the painful crises, swelling of the joints, and now he’s copying with life,” he revealed.
This, he says, gave him exposure to parents whose children are battling sickle cell and the magical formula has since worked for many.
Ogwang explains that plants have various compounds in them, and that a plant can have over 200 compounds.
“The most important thing is how you extract them and how you organize them to handle a particular disease. I discovered that these plants have components that kill malaria parasites, viruses. Knowing that this plant has antiviral properties, which in the village we used for measles and coughs, considering the fact that covid-19 is a virus, I knew that the two could be linked,” he said.
Dr. Ogwang’s first patient was a friend who had jetted in during the first wave of covid-19, to help them start a new program at Mbarara University.
The professor got infected after sharing a vehicle with an infected person, when they had gone for burial of Dr Ogwang’s uncle. He was then admitted and put on oxygen.
“I felt a personal guilt because I asked myself; what if this American died from here yet he has come on his own with no family?” he said.
After seeking his consent, Dr. Ogwang shared the formula with the friend.
According to him, the friend used 3 drops of the formula in the mouth along with the prescribed medicine in the hospital and he was feeling much better on the third day. He was eventually discharged.
“This is because Covid-19 first stays in your nose and throat. That’s where it multiplies itself initially before it goes down to the lungs. So if you can handle it from your throat and nose, you have weakened it,” he explained.
Ogwang says he continued sharing his formula without a label amongst his friends out of pity, “and it worked.”
Recently, the National Drug Authority (NDA) approved covidex as supporting treatment for viral infections including Covid-19.