Wednesday, 29th November 2023

How traditional medicine can fund Nigeria’s yearly budget  

By Chukwuma Muanya  
31 August 2023   |   3:41 am
• Herbal medicine market size to hit N356tr by 2030 • Stakeholders say country can make more than N19 trillion yearly from practice • Say NAFDAC does not have capacity to properly regulate sector • Practitioners fault NAFDAC on capacity, seek separate agency to regulate practice • Urge FG to create comprehensive policy framework for…

Traditional Medicine. Pix: WHO

• Herbal medicine market size to hit N356tr by 2030
• Stakeholders say country can make more than N19 trillion yearly from practice
• Say NAFDAC does not have capacity to properly regulate sector
• Practitioners fault NAFDAC on capacity, seek separate agency to regulate practice
• Urge FG to create comprehensive policy framework for integration into healthcare system 

As stakeholders commemorate the African Traditional Medicine Day (ATMD), today, experts have said that an aspect of traditional medicine, which is herbal medicine, was worth N145 trillion in 2021 and is projected to hit N356 trillion by 2030.

They also said Nigeria could make more than $19.4 billion (N19 trillion) yearly from ‘developing’ some aspects of Traditional Medicine (TM).
With a total budget of N21.83 trillion for 2023, stakeholders are optimistic that developing TM practices, including herbal medicine worth over N19 trillion yearly could fund the country’s budget.

They also made recommendations on how TM could be maximised to boost foreign exchange earnings and healthcare in the country.

TM refers to the sum total of knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures that are used to maintain health as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve, or treat physical and mental illnesses.

The assertion by the experts is corroborated by a Comprehensive Research Report by Market Research Future (MRFR), “Herbal Medicine Market Information By Category, Type of Medicinal Plants, Form, Source, Distribution Channel – Forecast till 2030”, which says the market size was valued $145 billion in 2021 and expected to reach $356 billion by 2030 at 10.9 per cent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) during the forecast period 2022-2030.
CAGR is the mean yearly growth rate of an investment over a specified period of time longer than one year.

According to the global herbal medicine market research report prepared by MRFR, the growing demand for herbal medicines among the expanding populace is anticipated to be a significant factor that can drive the market during the analysis time frame.

The experts include a pharmacist and Director General, Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Prof. Martins Emeje; a pharmacognosist and researcher in herbal medicine at Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos, Dr. Joy Odimegwu; a Catholic Monk and Director of Pax Herbals Clinic, Ewu, Edo State, Anselm Adodo; a professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Country Lead, Bloom Public Health, Chimezie Anyakora; a professor of Ophthalmology and Chairman, Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board (LSTMB), Adebukola Adefule-Ositelu; and a professor of taxonomy and economic plants from the Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, University of Lagos, Prof. Dele Olowokudejo,

Commemoration of the ATMD coincides with the date, August 31, 2000, on which the ministers of health adopted the relevant resolution at the 50th session of the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Africa in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Emeje, who was also the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the European University of Nigeria, Abuja and a distinguished professor of Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine at the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) Abuja, said: “It is believed that herbal medicine is worth over $100 billion yearly. What is the worth in Nigeria? What can it add to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?

“The global herbal medicine market size is estimated to be worth $356 billion by 2030. Nigeria has about 10,000 plant species and arable land of over two million hectares, yet less than 20 per cent of the plants have been utilised. Let’s get it clearer; this is just herbal medicine; my agency is not an herbal medicine agency.

“We are responsible for everything that is not artificial or chemically synthesised in Nigeria. It can contribute to our GDP, that is why I said it will replace oil if we get serious with research in this area.”

“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 80-85 per cent of people in developing countries depend on traditional medicines. In order words, about 170 million Nigerians use traditional medicines. Is that not more than the number of people using GSM? Take your mind back to the profit declared by the GSM providers last year and tell yourself what we are missing from developing or investing in our traditional medicine.

“It’s a shame! Right now, we do not have the data on how much herbal medicine can add to the GDP in precision terms. In fact, until we deliberately prioritise Research and Development (R&D) in herbal/traditional medicine, we will continue to beg for drug aids and we will continue to expose ourselves to the danger of consuming drugs produced by people we don’t know.”

Olowokudejo said proper and organised collection, harvesting and sale of wild medicinal plants can provide a significant source of income for rural people and the government.
He said professional packaging and marketing of herbal remedies would be a source of foreign exchange for the government.

“The world market for herbal remedies in 1999 was calculated to be worth $19.4 billion (N19 trillion),” he said.

The professor of botany said TM could be effectively used in addressing viral and infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, monkeypox, Marburg virus and Ebola virus, among others.
Anyakora said although Africa’s healthcare systems are still largely underdeveloped, the continent can boast of its rich natural resources. It is therefore imperative for Africa to harness its own potential and available resources, including traditional medicine, to realise good health outcomes and meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, “Good health and well-being.”

He said Africa can harness traditional medicines that have proven effective in the management and cure of ailments afflicting the continent’s population, thus lessening the growing burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases on conventional health systems.

Anyakora said, in Nigeria, strategic public-private partnerships are being explored to strengthen the use of traditional medicine.

He said Bloom Public Health, an indigenous Public Health organisation in Africa, has partnered with NNMDA to support its capacity-building efforts and aid in establishing quality management systems that meet international standards of operating, as well as aid research to ensure the availability of safe medicines from local sources for the citizens of Nigeria.

Anyakora said Bloom Public Health has worked closely with NNMDA, providing intensive training to upgrade staff skills and technical support for the establishment of the new NNMDA laboratory complex, and has successfully achieved ISO 17025:2017 accreditation for NNMDA laboratories.

He recommends that African governments should invest in biomedical and operational research aimed at expanding the scope of accepted best practices of traditional medicine in national health systems; strengthen the capacity of training institutions to integrate traditional medicine modules in the curricula of health sciences students and health professionals; and promote public-private partnerships aimed at fostering investment in large-scale cultivation and conservation of medicinal plants.

To advance continental efforts towards universal health coverage, Anyakora said Africa must explore and leverage the opportunities within its trado-medical sector by providing comprehensive support for the integration of traditional medicine into healthcare systems across the continent.

Adefule-Ositelu said she is eagerly aspiring for national incorporation of Traditional Complementary Alternative Medicine (TCAM) into Nigeria’s National Health Care System (NHCS). “The Chinese, Indians and many others have achieved theirs and we can also do the same for our people who reasonably also prefer their originality,” the ophthalmologist said.

Adodo said there have been significant breakthroughs in the field of traditional and natural medicine in Nigeria. He said researchers and practitioners have been exploring the medicinal properties of various indigenous plants and substances, leading to the discovery of novel remedies for a range of health issues.

Adodo said some big steps forward have been the discovery of specific plant extracts with strong antimicrobial properties, the creation of herbal formulas for treating some long-term diseases, and the isolation of bioactive compounds that could be used as medicines.

The Catholic Monk said some herbal compounds have shown promising anti-cancer properties in preliminary studies, but comprehensive clinical trials are necessary to establish their safety and efficacy.

He said certain traditional remedies have demonstrated potential for managing chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
“For instance, some plant extracts have shown blood sugar-lowering effects and antihypertensive properties. However, these treatments should be approached with caution and scientific validation is essential,” he said.

On the major challenges to the development of traditional medicine, Adodo said they include limited scientific validation and standardisation, lack of integration into the formal healthcare system, insufficient research funding, limited awareness and education among the public and healthcare professionals, and regulatory issues and quality control concerns.

On why there is poor standardisation in herbal and traditional medicine, leading to inconsistencies in effects, Adodo said poor standardisation arises from various factors, including variations in plant species, growing conditions, harvesting methods, and preparation techniques.
He said standardisation efforts are essential to ensuring consistent quality and efficacy.
On whether the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has the capacity to properly regulate the traditional medicine sector, Adodo said regulating the traditional medicine sector presents challenges due to its vastness and diversity.

He said while NAFDAC plays a role, enhancing regulatory capacity and collaborating with practitioners, researchers, and traditional healers are essential for effective oversight.
Adodo said WHO’s focus on traditional medicine underscores its global significance, adding that designating India as a hub recognises its longstanding tradition and expertise.

Recommending how best to develop traditional medicine in Nigeria, Adodo said: “Invest in rigorous scientific research to validate traditional remedies; establish clear regulatory frameworks and quality standards; incorporate traditional medicine education into medical curricula; promote cross-disciplinary collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and healthcare professionals; and raise public awareness about the benefits and limitations of traditional medicine.”

Meanwhile, the first-ever WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit 2023 closed on August 18, with a strong commitment from the diverse and unique groups of partners and stakeholders to harness the potential of the evidence-based traditional, complementary and integrative medicine (TCIM) to improve progress towards universal health coverage and Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 for the health and well-being of people and the planet.

Preliminary findings from the WHO Global Survey on Traditional Medicine 2023 shared at the Summit indicate that around 100 countries have TCIM related national policies and strategies.
In many WHO Member States, TCIM treatments are part of the essential medicine lists, essential health service packages, and are covered by national health insurance schemes.

Assistant Director-General, Universal Health Coverage, Life Course at WHO, Dr. Bruce Aylward, highlighted the need for a “stronger evidence base—a WHO priority—to enable countries to develop appropriate regulations and policies around traditional, complementary, and integrative medicine.”

Odimegwu said major breakthroughs in traditional/natural medicine have resulted in cancer drug discovery, adding that the mechanism of targeted therapy with compounds from nature/plants is very promising.

She said the breakthroughs happening in the field of oncology are quite significant because they are being used to beat cancer drug resistance and metastasis and hence improve the quality of life of patients.

Odimegwu urged the Minister of Health, Prof. Mohammed Pate, to financially support the already existing structures, academic departments and Faculties and also the parastatals in the area. “Have a conversation with the personnel and researchers,” she said.