Traditional medicine practitioners in Nigeria have been urged to collaborate and share knowledge with scientific researchers in order enhance the development of the pharmaceutical sector.
This advice was given in Abuja on Thursday by the Director -General, NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye, at the 2019 African Traditional Medicine organised by the African Traditional Medicine Department of the Ministry of Health.
The three-day event is expected to promote and showcase traditional herbal practitioners in Nigeria and their products to the world.
The event is also meant to be an avenue where issues regarding the development of indigenous herbal plants can be discussed among policy makers.
The theme for the celebration is “Integration of Traditional medicine in the Curricula of health sciences students in the universities in the African region.”
Mrs Adeyeye, a pharmacist, while delivering a lecture titled “The Role of NAFDAC and its activities on Traditional Medicine Development in Nigeria” attested to the efficacy of traditional herbal medicine in the treatment of aliments if well researched.
She, however, debunked the claims that traditional herbal medicines are less likely to cause adverse reactions as compared to orthodox medicines.
She said “it is a wrong notion because traditional herbal medicines too also have side effects”.
“They can be toxic and that is why we have to do a lot of research on it.”
She said Nigeria is blessed with vast flora biodiversity and this makes traditional medicine readily available and accessible.
She lamented that despite the abundance of raw materials and inherent benefit of traditional herbal medicine, the development of traditional herbal still poses a great challenge for the country.
She said this is due to the lack of access to standard orthodox medical facilities by a large segment of our population.
Mrs Adeyeye listed some of the problems hindering the development of traditional herbal medicine in Nigeria.
These, she said, include the lack of proper documentation, lack of clinical trials, standardisation and validation among the custodians of the knowledge.
She said the industry, if well researched, can serve as a means of income generation for the country and also compete with countries such as China and India “who have advanced in their traditional medicine practice.”
“The country needs to focus on improving and developing its traditional herbal medicine as it can be a source of income for the country,” she said. “There is an inadequate level of research and low output of research herbal medicines. There are problem of collaboration and cooperation of practitioners with scientist and researchers.$
“What is the use of having good knowledge of traditional medicine if you are going to die with it? There is also a low level of understanding the protection of inventions, we develop something, we quickly start selling and we lost the protection of the product. There are often no patent and within a year of getting to the market, if they don’t protect, it is free for all,” she added.
Mrs Adeyeye said for the sector to develop, “the secrecy and lack of complete disclosure of herbal actives in the product needs to be tackled with.”
She also said the ineffective implementation of existing policies with in the sector and inadequate collaborations are reasons for the poor performance in the industry.
“There are so many problems but we have to start somewhere. God did not give us all these beautiful plants for nothing. It is for us to do researches and make sure that they are safe,” she said.
She also added that her agency has a section which caters for the regulation of traditional herbal medicine.
She advised traditional herbal medicine practitioners to register their products under the agency.
Also speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Abudullahi Abdulaziz said traditional medicine “is a major part of our social health repositioning in Africa and serves as a major source of health services”.
“The government of Nigeria has recognised the importance of traditional medicine for the development of the health sector. That is why the government is planning to integrate its studies into the curricula of health science students in the country and Africa,” he said.
Meanwhile, a participant and herbal practitioner, Balosibina Solomon, called on the government to support the promotion of local products “which have been researched, tested and certified safe and effective by the standardisation agencies.”