Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has apologised for promoting a traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of Covid-19 in a video.
The promotional video which took social media by storm shows Lesufi saying the traditional medicine capsules, Lianhua Qingwen, were offered to his family and provided relief from Covid-19 symptoms.
Lesufi said he highly recommended the “miracle capsules” and while “they may not taste nice, they do the work”. When asked about recovery time, he said it didn’t take long as headaches, fever and “frustrating feelings vanished almost immediately”.
Lesufi has now issued an apology and said he would be engaging with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) to “ensure this matter is correctly addressed”.
I trusted my pharmacist in this instance who invited me to participate in taking part in the product study and who claimed that the product was submitted for approval.
As Daily Maverick points out, South Africa “has an unfortunate history of senior government officials touting bogus remedies for serious diseases – most notably, the late health minister”.
Lianhua Qingwen: What you need to know
The Lianhua Qingwen capsule was selected for Beijing’s Covid-19 traditional Chinese medicine prevention and control programme back in June 2020 to “support other treatments for adult patients and those under medical observation”, China state-affiliated media outlet Global Times reported.
Trials carried out in May 2020 for the use of Lianhua Qingwen in treating Covid-19 among 154 patients in China showed “certain advantages in relieving cough and fever”.
Researchers from the Macau University of Science and Technology in China said the capsules could be used “as an effective therapy to improve the clinical symptoms of new coronary pneumonia”.
However, a Swedish study flagged the capsules as ineffective, leading to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issuing warning letters to companies selling the capsules.
In addition, doctors in Canada warned people to be cautious when taking the capsules which contain weeping forsythia, Japanese honeysuckle flowers and ephedra.
As reported by BBC, Beijing’s Covid-19 Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) programme has links to the wildlife trade. Back in 2020, China’s National Health Commission was criticised for recommending injections containing bear bile powder as an effective treatment for Covid-19,
Wildlife conservationists expressed concern about the rising popularity of the programme’s unconventional treatments and said it could bring about a resurgence in illegal wildlife trafficking.
Dr Lixing Lao, honorary professor of the University of Hong Kong’s School of Chinese Medicine said: “Even if these endangered species have some treatment value, we should use botanical products as alternatives in the TCM practice.”