The Ministry of Health has instituted an accelerated research programme into herbal medicines to support herbal medicine practitioners who have been helping People Living with HIV/AIDS.
The programme, which is yet to take off, has selected 30 herbal medicines of practitioners throughout the country to go through clinical trials and this would be short-listed to 10. The Noguchi Memorial Institute into Medical Research and Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine (CSRPM), Mampong, Akwapim, in the Eastern Region would be the centres for the clinical trials.
Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister for Health, said this in Accra when he received a report from a team of herbal practitioners and officials of the Ministry, who paid a week's visit to India from July 24th to July 30th to study the practice of traditional medicine in India.
The Minister noted that the country was spending so much on Anti-Retroviral (ARV) drugs and such money could be saved for something else "when our traditional preparations could solve the same problem as the ARVs".
He noted that the Government was seriously interested in traditional medicine and would do all it could to promote it as was being done in China and India.
Major Quashigah reiterated the need for all to support and promote the Ministry's new health paradigm, which preached preventive more than curative medicine. The team, led by Professor Laud Okine, Director of CSRPM, was taken through the five recognised traditional health systems in India. They also visited manufacturing companies, research institutions and training institutions.
Prof Okine said India was far advanced in traditional medicine and recognised the five traditional health systems as Ayurveda Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani Tibb, Siddha and Homoeopathy, which had been abbreviated as AYUSH.
He said India had 36,400 hectares of plant conservation and 34,400 hectares of medicinal plants and had also put in place infrastructure that included training. "We were amazed to learn that India has over eight million registered practitioners, 450 teaching institutions, 99 post-graduate institutions, eight health universities, eight national institutes for research and an annual admission capacity for degree courses in traditional medicine of about 25,000."
Prof Okine said the team would recommend that traditional medicine practitioners in Ghana be educated in areas of good agricultural practices, good manufacturing, clinical practices, record keeping, regulatory and ethical issues, packaging and good marketing.
He said the current traditional medicine graduates from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology should undergo a year or two clinical exposure in India under an Indian government scholarship to train more Ghanaian students. "Setting up a traditional medicine school based on the Indian model in future would not be a bad idea," he said.
The team recommended that the Government should fully fund research activities at the CSRPM as was being done by the Indian Government and fund collaborative research with other institutions. They also advocated conservation, cultivation and the establishment of a Medicinal Plants Board as a way of sustaining Ghana's medicinal plants.
The team recommended that as a matter of urgency, a Traditional Medicine Council should be set up to oversee the activities of the directorate and practitioners while the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) was given resources to regulate products. They also called for documentation to ensure intellectual property rights by establishing Traditional Knowledge Digital Library put in the patents domain to avoid piracy. The team expressed concern about the promotion and advertisement of herbal products in the mass media and recommended that FDB prohibited the practice.
Ms Salamata Abdul Sallam, Chief Director of the Ministry, said the Ministry had brought on board scientists and orthodox practitioners in their exercise to ensure that all embraced the idea.