By CHIOMA OBINNA
Hard times await Traditional Medicine Practitioners, TMP, who flaunt the laws of the land as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has threatened severe sanctions, including a jail term for illegal advertisers of herbal medicines.
Reading the riot act in Lagos during a stakeholders’ meeting on “Regulation of Herbal Medicines in Nigeria”, Director General of the Agency, Dr. Paul Orhii, said: “Time has come to address the challenges confronting herbal medicine practice in Nigeria that has given room for unethical practices and exploitation of unsuspecting Nigerians.
“We have to weed out the fake from the legitimate practitioners and that is why we are stepping up enforcement from today, illegal advertisement of herbal medicines will attract severe sanction and even a jail term.
“There is need for sanity in the practice. But we are not going to seat back and watch people take advantage of Nigerians by advertising medicines that has no proven efficacy,”
Lamenting the pharmacological effect of various herbal products, Orhii said: “It is wrong to advertise a herbal medicine if you have not proven that your medicine is effective and safe by working with NAFDAC, Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceuticals Research and Development, (NIPRD) and other universities.
He disclosed that, already, NAFDAC has a pharmarcovigilance report of a pregnant woman who took herbal medicines and gave birth to a child without limbs.
“NAFDAC is not interested in your formula. Bring your medicines, and register with us. We just want to do toxicological studies and make sure that the medicines are safe. Then, carry out efficacy study with NIPRD to make sure that it is effective in curing the condition it is claimed to cure.
“After that, we move on with the approval process. Then, you can go and patent your formula so that nobody will steal your formula. I have been very concerned about proliferation of traditional medicines particularly the herbs, roots and other allied products that have been put down in the public domain through the media with ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims of cure for ailment including serious ailment like HIV/AIDS,” he added.
He regretted that unsuspecting Nigerians rely largely on advertorials adding that, it behoves on us as a scientific developing body to either prove or debunk such claims scientifically so that people are not hoodwinked into spending huge sums of money for treatment that are ineffective and sometimes may be too dangerous and cause harm.
Orhii, however, noted that herbal supplements can be beneficial to consumers but can also cause serious side effects and potentially dangerous conditions.
Further, he disclosed that a committee has been set up to look at health conditions such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, cancer, asthma, diabetes among others that could be tackled with local herbal medicines.
He regretted that Nigeria with the heaviest burden of malaria and large medicinal plants was yet to develop a medicine that could treat the disease even as the whole world is looking up to Nigeria to develop such medicine.
“We continue to import these anti-malaria drugs from other countries and today, the anti-malaria drugs have remained the most counterfeited drugs in Nigeria. We should be making these medicines and selling to other countries. But here we are, spending huge amounts on medicines that we can produce locally.”