• Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Synergy between TM and conventional medicine, key in improving health outcomes


As global revenue from herbal supplements and remedies market is set to hit an estimated $100bn by 2015, according to a new report titled ‘Herbal Supplements and Remedies; A Global Strategic Business Report,’ Nigeria is yet to fully explore this emerging market, a situation countries like China and Brazil have tapped into and raked in revenues worth US$14bn and US$160m respectively.

While African countries like South Africa, Ghana, Egypt and Morocco have developed and maintained institutional mandates to fast-track coordination of research and development, promotion and documentation of traditional medicine, health experts have called for synergy between traditional and conventional medicines in a bid to develop medicines that would meet the nation’s healthcare.

Speaking to stakeholders during the commemoration of African Traditional Medicine Day 2014, Paul Orhii, director general, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), said that about 80 percent of the population in developing countries and the African Region use Traditional Medicine (TM) for their primary healthcare (PHC) needs, yet it is often stigmatised by practitioners of modern medicine so much so that in some countries it is even illegal to practice it.

With global resurgence of interest in TM and increasing need for expanded healthcare in the past 30 years, Stella Denloye, director, laboratory services, who represented DG NADFAC, noted that there is the need to institutionalise traditional medicine in the health systems globally including Nigeria, a move which is in line with the aspiration of the World Health Organisation.

According to Orhii “Regulation is the key to ensuring that only good quality, safe and effective traditional/herbal medicines are available to consumers especially if traditional and complimentary medicines is to be integrated into the nation’s healthcare system. It is mandatory that herbal medicine be registered in accordance with The Drugs and related products Decree 19 of 1993, now Cap F33, LFN 2004.

“For successful implementation of the mandate of herbal medicine, NAFDAC in collaboration with other stakeholders established regulations, standards, and guidelines for regulations of herbal medicine products in Nigeria; established a national committee to advise the agency on herbal medicinal products and established an expert committee on verification of claims by herbal practitioners was set up. Guidelines for the verification of claims of herbal medicines in Nigeria have been adopted while eight products have been approved for the verification exercise.”

Titilope Owolabi, director, drug evaluation and research directorate (DER), NAFDAC revealed that countries like China and India have integrated traditional medicine into their healthcare system with industrialised countries such as Australia, France, Germany, and the United States of America recognising the importance role TM plays in their overall healthcare.

Owolabi stated that collaboration between traditional and conventional medicines needs to be coordinated in order to ensure safety, standardisation and broader efficacy in healthcare delivery.

“With the rising disease burden we are facing in the continent, there is the need to strengthen the collaboration in order to forestall infectious and non-communicable diseases. This can be achieved by exchange of information on management of disease, materials and technology used in preparation and dispensing. It also involves complementation of both systems by referral from one health system to another,” Owolabi added.

BusinessDay investigations reveal that while 1,372 traditional medicines ranging from processed and packaged powders, syrups/suspensions, ointment/creams, etc. listed in the last 15-18 years in Nigeria, a few of these medicines have been formulated into pharmaceutical dosage forms.

While two manufacturers have followed the path of science and done proof of concept up to Phase 2 where indications of such medicines are stated on the labels, work is in progress on carrying out such clinical trials on those traditional medicine products.

As evidence of efficacy is not a prerequisite for herbal listing by NAFDAC, such an individual is expected to conduct scientific research and follow protocols as without these steps being followed, such product might be harmful when allowed into the market. A peep into traditional medicine reveal that the new antimalarial drugs was developed from discovery and isolation of artemisinin from Artemisia annua L., a plant used in China for almost 2000 years.

In Mali, an effective collaboration between traditional and conventional health practitioners has been developed. The principles which underpin this collaboration include mutual respect and awareness of limits of competence and voluntarism with both parties agreeing to collaborate without receiving remuneration for services rendered.

Interestingly, the institutionalisation of TM in national health systems, is summed up in a recent speech delivered by Margaret Chan, WHO director general, Margaret Chan, during the WHO Congress on Traditional Medicine held in Beijing, China.

According to Chan “The two systems of traditional and Western medicine need not clash. Within the context of PHC, they can blend together in a beneficial harmony, using the best features of each system, and compensating for certain weaknesses in each.

“This is not something that will happen all by itself. Deliberate policy decisions have to be made. But it can be done successfully. Many countries have brought the two systems together in highly effective ways. In several countries where health systems are organised around PHC, traditional medicine is well integrated and provides a backbone of much preventive care and treatment of common ailments…”

Alexander Chiejina