By CHIKA IZUORA, Lagos
The federal government is close to saving about N50billion every month as it commences the process of integrating indigenous medicine into its health care delivery system.
Already, government and traditionunderstanding, MoU, that will facilitate the integration process. Also, a bill which has passed its second reading in the National Assembly is expected to formally and legally recognise traditional medicine in the country.
Speaking with our correspondent on the ongoing integration exercise, national president of the Nigerian Council of Physicians of Natural Medicine, NCPNM, Professor Magnus Atilade said government has for the first time committed itself toward the realisation of the integration.
Atilade explained that current interface between the NCPNM and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR has culminated into the signing of an MoU to kick-start the whole process. He disclosed that the first leg of the implementation of the MoU has already begun with the clinical verification that will authenticate and certify local medicines in the South-west region.
According him, the MoU between the NIMR and NCPNM, aims at establishing collaborations and cooperation between the two bodies for research and development of Nigerian indigenous natural medicinal products with potential health and economic benefits.
Atilade said when indigenous medicines are fully integrated, federal government would be saving about N50 billion monthly from importation of drugs of which 85 per cent are fake. The president recalled that before introduction of orthodox medicine, Nigerians and indeed African relied on use of local herbs to treat all sorts of ailments and that mortality rate in those days was not high.
He said in Asia, and South America, traditional medicine has developed significantly because their governments have recognised their efficacy and backed practitioners’ research efforts. According to him, the goal of the MoU is to use the strengths and expertise of the NIMR to prove and develop the potentials of these natural medicinal products as claimed by NCPNM and other stakeholders into scientifically sound and globally credible medicines and patents.
Operating within the instrumentality of the MoU, both NIMR and NCPNM would conduct scientific investigations, clinical trials, pharmacokinetic and toxicity studies and such others as may be deemed needful or recommended by reputable authorities suggested by NIMR management. This aims at proving the efficacy, vetting the safety and eventuality, and developing such natural medicinal products into commercially registered medicine and patents.
Atilade said the verification would be a nationwide exercise beginning with the South-west. “We want to be relevant in the country’s health care delivery system. We are ready to collaborate with government in this regard. The country is spending huge sums of money to import drugs that ordinarily would have been sourced locally.
This effort will not only benefit the middle and low income Nigerians but will create more jobs because the MoU will also lead to training of more people and investment in this area,” Atilade said.
On the pending bill in the National Assembly that would further formally see to the national integration of traditional medicine practice, Atilade said the bill was being sponsored in the Senate and it was going through the second reading to create a body to regulate complementary alternative medicine and traditional medicine and both of them coming together would be called natural medicine.
“As you know traditional medicine over the years have been from complementary alternative medicine which is the traditional medicine of other countries for example chiropractic from America, osopratic from Britain, homeopathic from Europe, and acupuncture from India, China and other places, all of them are grouped under complementary alternative medicines, but our own is traditional medicine and when we join both together we call it natural medicine, because they are all based on natural products and natural processes.
“Complementary alternate medicine has been taken by the government and put under the medical association, with different bodies regulating them.”
In the area of research, he said research anywhere in the world is not cheap, but “We have gotten to this point with our own indigenous efforts, with all modesty, through personal sacrifice of people like us.”
He commended government for the signing of the MoU to support research efforts of the traditional medicine practitioners. “Like I said, government has not given us a kobo to do any research and it takes process because it has to be documented, it has to be tried, it has to be screened, all of these we have been doing over the years without any help from any government.
“The government has been one-sided, pumping money only on the Western, orthodox and synthetic medicine. So this is a win-win situation, with the Institute of Medical Research which is a government agency that is charged to do research into all medicine. We are ready to move forward and produce drugs that are tested and affordable.al medicine practitioners have signed a memorandum of