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‘Herbal medicine curriculum will help integrate practice into healthcare system’

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Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has said that the implementation of proposed herbal medicine curriculum in medical schools will facilitate plans to integrate traditional medicine (TM) and its practitioners (TMP) into the conventional healthcare system.

Former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has said that the implementation of proposed herbal medicine curriculum in medical schools will facilitate plans to integrate traditional medicine (TM) and its practitioners (TMP) into the conventional healthcare system.

Chukwu in reaction to The Guardian publication, Neglect of Traditional Medicine Continues, said: “Comprehensive feature story. We seem to be moving in circles… However, I am surprised that no mention was made of the Herbal Medicine Curriculum, which was produced and adopted during my tenure as Honourable Minister of Health (HMH). The objective is to enable Herbal Medicine (HM) to be studied in the university just like conventional medicine. Thus students of HM will graduate as medical doctors at par with their conventional medical counterparts.

“The vision was born out of, first, my appreciation that the first duty of a doctor is to make a diagnosis. Yes, one may have inherited from one’s ancestors roots that can stop ‘fever’ but the ability to determine the cause of fever (which could be caused by many different diseases example malaria, typhoid fever, urinary tract infection, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), meningitis, Lassa fever, hepatitis, etc.) require training. And there is no single ‘cure all’ medicine.

“So possession of a medicine does not guarantee successful treatment of a disease. One cannot make a diagnosis unless one had been taught the basic medical sciences: anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and pathology. Secondly, medical practice must be evidence based. Unfortunately, not all branches of TM presently lend themselves to available tools for the collection of evidence. Until such tools are available or developed, it is safe and pragmatic to concentrate on HM for which evidence is abundantly available. Many do not appreciate that TM does not automatically mean HM. HM is only but a branch of TM.

“Until prospective Herbal Medical Practitioners (HMP) undergo training to become physicians in their own right, it would be almost impossible to formally integrate them into the nation’s health care system.”

Chukwu, as the then Minister of Health under the administration of immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan, had taken steps to integrate herbal medicine into the curriculum of medical colleges. The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) had under Chukwu’s leadership raised a committee for the development of curriculum for the training of herbal medical practitioners in medical schools. Besides, the FMoH constituted a committee on herbal products promotion and export.

Chukwu, who raised these committees, said they are aimed at realising the economic benefits of herbal medicine. The Herbal Products Promotion Committee was to identify key manufacturers of herbal products in Nigeria; identify range of herbal drugs and classify as food supplements or therapeutic agents; determine the volume of herbal drugs being exported from Nigeria; determine the volume of herbal products being imported and their sources.

The 14 man-committee was expected to also determine impediments to production and acceptability of Nigerian herbal products; critically review, identify and recommend means of encouraging the local production of safe, efficacious quality herbal products for domestic consumption and export; determine the potential of herbs and herbal products in terms of their value chain for job creation and foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria and to proffer any other recommendation, which in the opinion of the committee, is necessary to the realisation of its mandate.

The committee has Prof K.S Gamaniel of Nigeria Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) as Chairman.

Members are J. E. B. Adagadzu; Dr. Hadiza Nuhu of Ahmadu Bello University; Medical Director, Health Forever Products Limited, Otunba Olajuwon Okubena; Director, Pax Herbal Research Laboratories Limited, Rev Fr. Anselem Adodo; Alternative and Traditional Medicine Practitioner Dr. Ayuk Enock Paul and Mr. Ben Amodu of the Ministry of Defence.

Others are representatives of the FMOH; the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC); Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment; Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA); National Association of Nigerian Traditional Medicine Practitioners (NANTMP).

Also on the committee are Deputy Director, Traditional Medicine Development Desk (TMDD) and FMoH.

But four years on, the committees and Chukwu’s plans have been swept under the carpet. Nothing has been heard of the plans since Chukwu left office.



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