-As ACEDHARS holds symposium
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has called on the Federal Government to support herbal medicines as well as provide more funds for research on herbal medicines development, saying such gestures will go a long way in achieving universal health coverage (UHC) for citizens.
Director General, NAFDAC, Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, made the call at the inaugural symposium and launching of the Africa Centre of Excellence for Drug Research, Herbal Medicine Development and Regulatory Science (ACEDHARS) at the University of Lagos recently.
NAFDAC DG, who was the keynote speaker at the symposium with the theme “Drug Development from African Medicinal Plants: Opportunities, Challenges and Regulatory Approach”, said many of the herbal medicines in Africa, with special emphasis on Nigerian environment, are effective but there is need to conduct research on the medicines.
According to her, there are huge opportunities in herbal medicines that will boost the pharmaceutical sector, but there is need to change the current approach to herbal medicines production in Nigeria and across Africa Continent. She added that specific techniques must be used to test herbal medicines which are not the same with orthodox medicine.
Citing some of the challenges facing herbal medicines development in Nigeria, Prof. Adeyeye pointed out that many medicinal plants have diverse bioactive compounds depending on several factors such as geographical location, time of harvest, storage condition among others.
Other challenges facing herbal medicines development in Nigeria and entire Africa continent, according to the NAFDAC DG, include ignorance to regulation by practitioners, funding and reluctance to conduct clinical trials, intellectual property ownership, deforestation, lack of access to latest technologies, as well as low interest of researchers in herbal medicines development.
She therefore called on herbal medicine practitioners in Nigeria and the entire Africa continent to take advantage of ACEDHARS to increase their knowledge in herbal medicine practice, saying that herbal practitioners must have continued education, even where they had it before.
According to the DG, ACEDHARS is very important to Nigeria because of the focus on the development of herbal medicines for the use of the people. Adeyeye stated that ACEDHARS will play huge role in the development of herbal medicines not just in Nigeria but in Africa continent, saying the centre would function to ensure that adequate research is conducted and clinical trials done on herbal products before usage.
In his remarks, the chief host of the event, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who was ably represented by Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Management Services, Prof. Obinna Chukwu, stated that the issue of quality control, proper identification of medicinal plants, standardisation of active ingredients and chemical compounds in herbal medicine need to be addressed.
“We must appreciate the fact that the herbal medicines we have are quite efficacious and there is the need for us to tap into the indigenous knowledge. Some herbal medicines are quite useful in addressing a number of ailments but the problem is that some of these medicines had been seen as a cure for all ailments, which the Yorubas call ‘gbogbo nise’. We are also looking forward to a period where modern technology will be applied in herbal medicine research”, Ogundipe said.
In the same vein, the HOD, Strategic Business Development/Research, Neimeth International Pharmaceutical Plc, Pharm. Dr Chuka Chukwuanu, who spoke on the sub-theme of the symposium “Herbal Medicine Acceptability: Travails of Traditional Medical Practitioners”, decried non-documentation of traditional herbal medicine knowledge and discoveries in the Africa continent.
To move on and maintain momentum, Chukwuanu said research effort must be problem solving. “We must be intentional in going into herbal farming. We must be intentional in gathering and documentation of knowledge and discoveries”, the Neimeth’s manager said.
Director, Traditional and Complementary/Alternative Medicine, Ministry of Health, Republic of Liberia, Pharm. Dr Mohammed Kamara, also emphasised the need for establishment of medicinal plant farms across the African continent to facilitate unhindered formulation of various herbal dosage forms.
Earlier in her address, the Centre Leader, Omobolanle Ade-Ademilua, stated that ACEDHARS is a World Bank approved centre of excellence that was established to train skilled manpower. According to the centre leader, the training at the centre will includes quality assurance, standardisation of dosages, reproducibility of herbal preparations and safety monitoring of drugs in West and Central African region.
Ade-Ademilua stated that the need for the centre to intervene is due to the increasing growing demand for stringent quality norms for global positioning of herbal products. She said some of the challenges facing herbal medicines include safety, standardisation as well as irrational use, due to dearth of skilled manpower in their production and regulation, saying the centre will fill the gap, as it runs short courses, as well as interdisciplinary M.SC and Ph.D programmes.