By Obinna Unaeze
The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has said that sensitising herbal and traditional medicine practitioners on best practices would make the trade earn foreign exchange for the country.
Mr Anikoh Ibrahim, NAFDAC Coordinator in Niger disclosed this on Saturday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Minna.
Ibrahim said that clear-cut policies must be enacted for herbal and traditional medicine practitioners to adhere to international best practices in their trade.
`Right now NAFDAC is collaborating with herbal and traditional medicine practitioners in Niger state to achieve the standardisation of herbal medicine products through workshops for the practitioners.
“The workshops will provide government with ideas to come up with policies that will bring our herbal and traditional medicines practices to better acceptance in international commerce as an alternative foreign exchange earner for the nation,’’ he said.
Ibrahim said that the agency has certified some of these herbal and traditional medicines brought for clinical trials, while many others were yet to get the mark of Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) owing to lukewarm attitude of the practitioners.
The coordinator said that the recent global increase in the use and acceptance of herbal and traditional medicines has raised a lot of issues.
“The fact that herbal medicines have a long history of use in many cultures in the world has given credence to the massive acceptance of various formulations and diverse presentations,’’ he said.
According to Ibrahim: “recent World Health Organisation survey reveals that over 70 per cent of the world’s population depends on herbal or traditional medicine’’.
He stressed the need to investigate and understand what constitutes herbal medicine, its relevance in Nigeria and the agency’s role in its regulation.
The coordinator explained that prior to the advent of orthodox medicine in the country; lack of written records of formula, methods and practices of traditional medicine has set back its development.
He said this was in spite of the potential benefits inherent in its application especially in the area of primary healthcare delivery.
He said that several concerns on the safety status of herbal and traditional medicine have emanated over the years making Federal Government to intervene by enacting various legislations to control its manufacture, advertisement, sale and use.
“The Federal Ministry of Health in 1994 mandated all states of the federation to establish Boards of Traditional Medicines in order to enhance the development of herbal and traditional medicine practices and facilitate its contribution to the National Health System,’’ he said.
Ibrahim noted that the regulation of these products was primarily focused on the label claims on finished products instead of clinical trials for its efficacy.
“The development of herbal and traditional medicine is encumbered by numerous challenges such as absence of good national policies in the country.
“It also included safety, effectiveness and quality, international diversity of traditional medicine practices, spurious and unsubstantiated labelling and advertisement claims by practitioners on their products,’’ he said.
NAN reports that NAFDAC was established in 1994 to regulate and control the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of foods, drugs, chemicals, cosmetics, medical devices and packaged water.