Poised to curb the irregularities in the herbal medicine industry, as well as promote research into safety and efficacy of herbal medicinal products, National Agency for Food and Drug Administrative and Control (NAFDAC) has established a special Herbal Medicinal Products Committee (HMPC) for these purposes and more.
Director General, NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, disclosed this on Thursday, 11 June 2020, noting the goal of the committee was to add concerns relating to preservation and standardization of herbal products, whilst promoting research leading to viable and registerable herbal products that could be manufactured in commercial quantities.
Adeyeye, who spoke through a press statement, said the agency can no longer shy away from regulating herbal medicine products, as it is enshrined in the Act that established the agency, which mandates it to “regulate and control the importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale, and use of food, drugs (including herbal and nutraceutical products), cosmetics, medical devices, packaged water, chemicals and detergents (collectively known as regulated products)”.
She recalled some of the challenges encountered by the agency that made the inauguration of the HMPC mandatory. “Such issues as inadequate level of research, poor documentation, inadequate number of standards for raw materials, lack of standardization herbal medicines, as well as lack of medicines, lack of cooperation/collaboration of practitioners with scientists/researchers were hampering progress.
“In addition, the low level of understanding of protection of invention and the Intellectual Property Right Laws (IPR), secrecy, lack of incentive for complete disclosure of herbal actives in the products and lack of clinical trial of existing herbal medicines were some of the reasons for setting up the Committee”.
The NAFDAC boss further remarked on the need for the establishment of the committee, saying with the popularity of use, and concerns relating to the safety, quality and efficacy of these herbal products have buttressed the need for strict regulation and control by NAFDAC, while encouraging the translation of the herbal products to registered medicines.
She said considering the large population of Nigerians who depend on these preparations for various health needs, the agency is adopting various strategies aimed at building and strengthening systems to ensure products available for use by the populace are safe, of good quality and efficacious.
Although information about the inauguration of the HMPC was released on Thursday, Adeyeye said the HMPC has held three meetings prior to the official announcement of its establishment, which were held on 15 March 2019; 6 September 2019, and 7 May 2020, respectively.
According to her, at the inaugural meeting, Nigerian Herbal Medicinal Products Committee (HMPC) was adopted as the name of the committee, and seven sub-committees were constituted were appointed heads to coordinate their deliberations.
The Seven sub-committees with corresponding/matching terms of reference were identified as follows: Guidelines for Claims Verification —headed by Prof. Anthony Elujoba; Protocol for clinical trials – headed by Prof. Adebukunola Adefule-Oshitelu; Identification and Standardization of Herbal Medicinal Products – headed by Prof. Maurice Iwu; Records of use and efficacy of herbal medicinal products — headed by Prof. Olukemi Odukoya; Guidelines for harvest and post-harvest handling of herbal raw materials – headed by Dr Odeyeml; Herbal Medicine Vigilance (Phytovigilance for safety monitoring) – headed by Dr Abbas Waziri; Formulation and Product Development – headed by Prof. Martins Emeje.
She added that it is expected of the various sub-committees to come up with draft guidelines, protocols and relevant documents.
In attendance at the inaugural meeting was a representative of the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; Representatives of the National Association of Nigerian Traditional Medicine Practitioners (NANTMP), members of the Academia – Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU); University of Benin (UNIBEN); University of Lagos (UNILAG); Ahmadu Bello University (ABU); University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN)-herbal medicine practitioners; Manufacturers of herbal medicines; Representative from the Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) and NAFDAC staff from different directorates.