Over 40% drugs in pharmaceutical space from plant origin – NNMDA

Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) has lamented Nigeria’s over-dependence on importation of drugs and other healthcare products.

Director General of the Agency, Prof. Martins Emeje stated this at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka during a Community engagement meeting on importance of Integrating Indigenous Medicine with Orthodox Health Practices for Community Health and Economic Development in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation was 

Emeje regretted that while over 160million Nigerians could not afford imported drugs, over 40 percent of drugs in the pharmaceutical space globally originated from plants.

He said, “Nigeria and Africa have been over-dependent on importation of healthcare products, including drugs. As at today, Nigeria doesn’t manufacture a single drug. This is quite painful and shameful. 

“This simply means we’re insecure in terms of medicine, not just the insecurity we all know. That is why we decided to see how we can develop our own indigenous and natural medicine so can produce our drugs locally. 

“Over 40% of current drugs in the pharmaceutical space globally are from the plant origin, not to talk of animals, minerals and soil. For every disease, the solution is within the environment. There’s no disease in Nigeria that the panecea is not here. 

“We can boast of men and women in our cultural heritage of herbal and traditional medical practitioners with wealth of knowledge and experience of how to tackle all manner of diseases in our society. That’s why our ancestors lived over 100years. 

“But today, life expectancy is less than 60years. That’s because we’ve thrown away our culture and heritage and are busy exporting and exploiting our own cultural bio-diversity and depending on imported pharmaceuticals. 

“This engagement is part of a research project involving five countries of China, India, United Kingdom, Uganda and Nigeria who are collaborating to find solutions to the problem of anti-microbial using herbal medicine of Nigeria origin. 

“My Agency is leading Nnamdi Azikiwe University and Obafemi Awolowo University with Prof. Charles Esimone and Prof Ibrahim Bellow as part of Nigeria’s team to develop this medicine. 

Emeje further announced that plans have been concluded by the Agency to establish research farms in all 774 local governments in Nigeria as well as herbal clinics in all states. 

“The research farms is for integrated cultivation, medical production, functional foods, among others. Currently, that of Kano State is 90% completed, while that of Plateau and Cross River States just commenced.

Identifying one of the Agency’s vision as citizens’ decolonization through proper education on placing premium on indigenous medicine, the DG said NNMDA had been organizing training through its College of Natural Medicine where students receive lectures in different languages. 

“We’ve been embarking on massive public enlightenment and training to tackle the issue of inferiority complex. We must believe in ourselves and what we can offer so others will take us serious and buy into our products,” he added.

The DG further allayed fears of intellectual property, saying, “the act establishing our agency clearly stated that intellectual property of all inventors and innovators is properly protected. The era of doubting trust on the part of government is gone. 

Host Vice Chancellor, Prof Charles Esimone said the engagement was targeted at harvesting indigenous knowledge of medical plants for affordable, sustainable and acceptable healthcare.

He said, “We’re trying to harvest indigenous knowledge in terms of medicinal plants, document and explore them further for affordable, sustainable and acceptable healthcare within and outside our environment.

“Nigeria is a big country to overlook or underate, especially in the area of healthcare provision and we have comparative advantage in terms of natural medicine. 

“We also have very rich, but untapped bio-diversity. Regrettably, our traditional healers with enormous endowment are going to their graves with those endowment.

“Universities are supposed to provide policy direction based on imperical researches they’ve done. UNIZIK has track record in terms of research in pharmaceuticals with corresponding strong pharmaceutical faculty and extensive collaboration nationally and internationally.

Deputy Director/State Coordinator, Anambra State Office, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Pharm Louis Madubuattah assured the agency’s support to the project, including addressing challenge of clinical trials and products certification for marketing. 

He called for visibility and collaboration on the part of herbal medicine practitioners, as well as seeking for grants and investors towards battling the challenge of antimicrobial resistance. 

On his part, Chairman, Anambra State Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association, Chief Hyacinth Ezeugo canvassed for traditional medicine hospital in each state of the federation.

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