Rivalry between orthodox and traditional doctors hampers dev’t
The Director for Quality and Safety at the Ministry of Health, Dr Ernest Asiedu, has said that mistrust between orthodox and traditional health practitioners has delayed developing a potent herbal cure for most common ailments.
As an orthodox doctor who appreciates traditional medicine’s worth, Dr Asiedu believes the two groups complement each other but practitioners see themselves as rivals.
Some western medicine practitioners contend that traditional and alternative medicine is not potent without actually putting it to the test.
Therefore, they tend to discredit the solutions that have been handed down from generation to generation.
On the other hand, traditional and alternative medical practitioners fear that the orthodox medical doctors would pull the wool over their eyes and milk their discovery.
“The lack of transparency by orthodox doctors sometimes make traditional medical practitioners find it difficult to trust them with their formula for certain herbal remedies.”
“Attempts by orthodox practitioners to acquire knowledge of the potent traditional solutions for mass production has never succeeded because of fears that it would put the herbal doctors out of pocket.
“It is threatening for the herbal doctor who subsists on a small-scale alternative medicine, to share active ingredients of his formula with an orthodox practitioner bent on synthesising these active ingredients surreptitiously to maximise profits from commercialisation,” Dr Asiedu explained to theghanareport.com.
“Going large scale and commercialising the production is definitely not in the interest of the herbal doctor who intends to have his lifetime earnings through the continual administering of his healing formula. It is therefore understandable that the herbal doctor refuses to bottle his remedy, clearly labelling it for anyone to steal.”
“What the herbal doctors find even more annoying is the fact that orthodox doctors turn around and accuse herbal doctors of selling fake solution even when the formula is potent and are being synthesised by orthodox practitioners.
Traditional medicine providers refuse to package their products with proper labelling and the threat of being arrested by the Food and Drugs Authority for selling drugs without certification and approval.
So far, there have been seven different herbal solutions being tested for efficacy against coronavirus, as acknowledged by the Ministry of Health not long ago.
Herbal doctors have said that formulas that have shown promise against coronavirus are several.
Some practitioners have a cocktail of potent ingredients which they sell to patients.
After verification of its efficacy, the problem is the preparation, determining the shelf life, and giving it a good packaging.
As a practitioner, Dr Asiedu advises his coronavirus patients to try traditional home remedies, such as steaming, inhalation, ginger and ‘prekese’ (Tetrapleura tetraptera) consumption.
“I cherish traditional and herbal medicine a great deal because that is how our ancestors were kept alive before western medicine came on the scene,” Dr Asiedu added.
Commenting specifically on the efficacy of Cryptolepsis sanguinolenta (locally known as ‘Nibima’), Dr Asiedu spoke of a testimony given by a victim of COVID-19 of its potency, causing health researchers to pay more attention to the plant medicine.
The Nibima plant is currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19,
The trials are being carried out by research bodies, including the Centre for Plant Medicine and Research (CPMR) in Mampong, School of Public Health at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), where herbal doctors are trained, and the School of Pharmacy also in KNUST.
In January 2021, the National Medicine Regulatory Agency (NMRA) in Ghana and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) approved Cryptolepsis sanguinolenta for clinical trials.
The approval was in response to a clinical trial application in September 2020 to assess the safety and efficacy of Nibima as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
This followed results from laboratory studies conducted by the KNUST research team, which indicated possible benefits.
Nibima is already used locally as a herbal treatment for Malaria.
Long before the coronavirus’s emergence, the CPMR gave the world a powerful tool in the fight against malaria.
The malaria treatment was found to match the artemisinin therapy, providing proof and hope that plant or traditional medicine is the underrated component that will aid orthodox medicine in the quest to beat malaria and related ailments.
Thousands of jobs can be created in Ghana if biology and chemistry graduates are trained as herbal doctors and funded to add to the extensive collection of herbal medicine, its use, and preparation methods.
A lot of work remains to build on the pioneering work of Dr Oku Ampofo, who documented over a thousand medicinal plants in the Ghana herbal pharmacopoeia.
Every year, graduates from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology come to the Centre for Plant Medicine Research in Mampong for training as medical herbalists.
They are prescribers and doctors. So far, over 200 hundred have been trained across the country. They are running these units together with paramedical staff.
What makes herbal or traditional medicine vital is how well it treats the most chronic diseases. People are growing tired of orthodox medicine’s side effects and the threat of fake and substandard drugs confronting it.
Given the WHO recommendation for malaria treatment to be a combination therapy, Deputy Director of CPMR Dr A.A, Appiah, believes that the Nibima plant must be added to the therapy to help check resistance to the available remedy.
Fortunately, the WHO recommends an integration policy that offers traditional medicine and orthodox medicine to promote universal health care because primary health care delivery relies on traditional medical practitioners to respond to the peculiar health needs of the community.
Ghana began integrating orthodox and traditional medicine in 2011, with a pilot at the Ledzokuku-Krowor Municipal Assembly (LEKMA) Hospital in Teshie, Accra.
Currently, there are 19 integrated hospitals across the country, offering both orthodox and traditional medical services.
In the Bono, Ahafo, Ashanti, Volta, Eastern and Western, Central and Greater Accra regions, some major hospitals offer integrated health service.
The integration is well-patronised in the northern areas such as Tamale, Yendi, Salaga, Bolgatanga and Wa.
The health ministry expects 20 more hospitals in the country to implement orthodox and traditional medicine services soon.
The goal is to ensure that every health facility in Ghana offers both orthodox and traditional medical care.