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Many Nigerians can’t afford imported drugs

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By Abiodun Okunloye

NNMDA advocates local medicine farms integration for Nigeria's health.

The Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) has expressed concern about the country’s excessive reliance on importing pharmaceuticals and healthcare products. During a community engagement meeting at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof. Martins Emeje, the agency’s director general, emphasised the significance of combining local Medicine with Orthodox Health Practices for Community Health and Economic Development in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Despite Nigeria’s large population of more than 160 million, he regretted that the people struggled to access imported medications.

Africa’s reliance on imported healthcare products has been criticised. Nigeria’s lack of drug manufacturing capabilities is a source of concern. Their lack of confidence in conventional medicine led them to explore ways to create local, natural remedies as an alternative. More than 40% of medications worldwide come from plants, as well as animals, minerals, and soil. The answer to every illness can be found in nature. Nigeria has remedies for all diseases within its borders. Their lineage includes skilled herbal and traditional healers with extensive knowledge and experience treating various ailments. This is the reason why their ancestors lived well into their hundreds.

Nigeria and others collaborate to tackle herbal antimicrobial resistance.

Today, the average lifespan is under 60 years due to the abandonment of cultural traditions, the prioritisation of exporting and profiting from cultural diversity, and reliance on foreign pharmaceuticals. Five countries, including the United Kingdom, China, India, Uganda, and Nigeria, are working together on a research project to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance in herbal medicine from Nigeria. Prof. Charles Esimone and Prof. Ibrahim Bello are heading the team from Nigeria spearheading this medicine’s development at Nnamdi Azikiwe University and Obafemi Awolowo University. Emeje also revealed that the agency was finalising arrangements to create research farms in every one of the 774 local governments across Nigeria and set up herbal clinics in each state.

Also, the research farms focus on combining cultivation, medical production, and functional foods. The farm in Kano State is 90% completed, while work has begun on the farms in Plateau and Cross River States. The Director General highlighted the agency’s vision of promoting decolonisation among citizens by educating them on the importance of indigenous medicine. NNMDA has provided language-diverse lectures at its College of Natural Medicine to ensure students receive comprehensive training in this area. An extensive campaign has been launched to educate and train the public on overcoming feelings of inadequacy. Individuals must be confident in their abilities to be perceived as credible and attract customers.

Traditional knowledge of medicinal plants to provide healthcare solutions.

He reassured everyone about the safety of their intellectual property by mentioning that the agency’s founding legislation ensures that all inventors’ and innovators’ intellectual property is fully safeguarded. Also, Prof. Charles Esimone, the Vice Chancellor who was hosting the event, emphasised the goal of utilising traditional knowledge of medicinal plants to provide accessible, long-lasting, and culturally appropriate healthcare solutions. He mentioned their efforts to gather traditional knowledge about medicinal plants and expand their research for accessible, long-lasting, and well-received healthcare domestically and internationally.

Moreover, Nigeria should be considered, particularly regarding healthcare services, as the country possesses a unique strength in natural medication. Its untapped bio-diversity is a valuable resource that remains untouched. Unfortunately, the immense knowledge possessed by traditional healers is being lost as they pass away without sharing their gifts. UNIZIK is well-known for its solid pharmaceutical faculty and extensive research collaborations, enabling the university to offer valuable policy guidance based on empirical research findings through its strong pharmaceutical faculty and extensive national and international collaborations.

Related Article: African Traditional Medicine Day in Nigeria

Pharm Louis Madubuattah, Deputy Director and State Coordinator of the Anambra State Office of NAFDAC, expressed total commitment to assisting with the project, specifically in overcoming obstacles related to clinical trials and product certification necessary for marketing approval. He urged herbal medicine practitioners to be more transparent and work together while seeking funding and financial support to combat antimicrobial resistance. Chief Hyacinth Ezeugo, chairman of the Anambra State Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association, expressed the need for traditional medicine hospitals to be established in every state in the country.

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NNMDA: Website

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