The lives of thousands of Kenyans could be in danger from an untested and unregistered malaria drug recently exposed as industrial bleach.
Reports on Wednesday in the UK’s Guardian newspaper said Kenyans were among about 100,000 malaria patients treated with the Miracle Mineral Supplement in several African countries, including Uganda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Malawi.
Some 75,000 are said to have been treated in Kenya and Uganda alone.
The treatment, which was banned in the US and Canada this year, was first introduced in Kenya in 2004 by its developer, Jim Humble, through what he claimed to be an international Christian group.
The distributors circumvent the ban by marketing the product through the internet and church groups.
The distributors, who claim the product cures within hours, instruct consumers to mix 28 per cent sodium chlorite with a weak acid like citrus juice.
“This mixture produces chlorine dioxide, a potent bleach used for stripping textiles and for industrial water treatment. High oral doses of this bleach, such as those recommended in the labelling, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe dehydration,” says the US Food and Drug Administration in a statement banning the product.
On Thursday, the head of the malaria control division in the Health ministry, Dr Elizabeth Juma, said sodium chlorite was bleach and should not be used as medicine.
In Kenya, the product was first introduced at St James Ematsayi Clinic in Kakamega where Mr Humble claims to have treated 1,000 cases.
In literature on the internet, Mr Humble treated these patients with the help of Dr Isaac Opondo, who was in charge.
When the Nation called the clinic on Thursday, we were told Dr Opondo died a month ago.
Bishop Javan Ommani, in charge of the mission, confirmed having the product. “We still have a lot of stocks and can send you as much as you want,” he said.
Though in Africa the emphasis has been on its ability to treat malaria, elsewhere it is marketed as a cure for ailments like cancer, HIV, hepatitis and even swine flu.