By Martins Ifijeh
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has kicked against the importation of herbal concoction from Madagascar for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, describing the federal government’s decision as distasteful and disgraceful.
In an interview with THISDAY Tuesday, the President, PSN, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said several bright Nigerian scientists had proposed solutions against COVID-19 to the federal government but that they have all been ignored, adding that the same government was searching for already-made solutions from abroad.
He said: “I am aware of efforts made by researchers in this country. Even the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Nigeria Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and a host of others have made efforts, but government appears not to be interested. We are waiting for fully cooked foods from elsewhere. We are waiting for others to be done with their own researches so we can adopt them.
“Government has refused to fund its own research institutes. We keep hearing donations of N25 billion, N50 billion, $3 million, and several other billions. Why can’t government dedicate half of these monies to research; why can’t they commission its research bodies to find solutions?” he queried.
He said if government was serious about developing vaccines and cures against COVID-19, it should bring all researchers with ideas together, tell NIPRD and other group of scientists to sit with them to hear their various ideas.
“The solutions that are promising should then undergo government (clinical) trial. That is what Madagascar did. These researchers are not just herbalists; some are professors, pharmacists and doctors.
“The other recommendation is for government to bring these brains together and tell them that since Madagascar has been able to do this, they should get to the laboratories and come up with solutions,” he added.
He said although in principle, the PSN would not mind if the Nigerian government imports any new drugs that was proven to cure COVID-19 or indeed any other disease for which Nigerians have neither the capacity or technology to produce locally, it was appalling that the country was about to spend scarce foreign exchange to import ‘coal into Newcastle’.
“Even if we are not going to pay for this, it is thoroughly disgraceful that a country that should be the leader of Africa, with the largest GDP will allow itself to be dragged this low. Nigeria has about 174 Universities (43 federal, 52 state and 79 private), 20 faculties of pharmacy and about 69 federal-funded research institutes (including NIPRD and NIMR) while Madagascar has only six universities, one faculty of pharmacy and nine research centres.
“Nigeria has some of the best scientists in the world who have done so much work on natural and herbal medicines. Nigeria has developed a pharmacopeia of natural and herbal products and has one of the richest flora and fauna – potent sources of phytomedicines. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, a number of them have raised their voices that they have herbal and natural products that can be used to treat or manage COVID-19. Some have patents. Many herbal companies and producers have announced specifically that they have herbal formulations that can do what this ‘invention’ from Madagascar can do.”
He said government should save the Nigerian pharmaceutical scientists and other scientists from the shame of having our country import and try herbal remedies which God has given the nation in abundance, adding that some of which the country’s grandfathers and grandmothers have used for ages.