NDA engages herbalists on standard operations

Herbalists during a sensitisation meeting with the National Drug Authority (NDA) at Hoima Kolping Hotel on Monday, April, 12, 2021. (Photo: Gad Asaba)

Herbalists and other providers of complimentary medicine in Bunyoro and Ruwenzori sub-regions have been told to follow regulations that govern them in the manufacture and prescription of their medicine as guided by the National Drug Authority (NDA).

During a sensitisation meeting at Hoima Kolping Hotel yesterday (Monday), Mr Noah Mutebi, the NDA Regulatory Officer, told the herbalists to always notify the Authority about their medicine so it can be tested, verified and certified by trained and qualified personnel.

He said the procedures aim to enable quality control and good manufacturing practices of the medicine before it is prescribed to patients.

Audio: Mutebi on quality practices (Luganda)

Mr Mutebi disclosed that it has been noted with concern that some herbalists propagate false information about their concoctions in a bid to increase their sales yet if untested for efficacy, herbal products can be toxic to human life.

Audio: Mutebi on toxic herbs (Luganda)

The in charge of herbal medicine in the NDA, Michael Mutyaba, told the herbalists to observe authenticity while mixing their certified herbal medicine since, as it was reported earlier, a bigger population of Ugandans trust and use herbs for different ailments as their basic source of their primary health care.

Recently, the Ministry of Health reported that more than 60 per cent of Uganda’s population that seeks treatment relies on herbs for their health.

Mr Mutyaba said given the figures, herbs are an important remedy that must be focused on to ensure that clients consume approved products.

Audio: Mutyaba on herbal medicine (English)

The President of Uganda Herbalists Association, Jamil Mukwaya Lutakome, underscored the need for the herbalists to adhere to the guidelines set by the NDA including stopping advertising their herbal products without authorisation.

He pledged that herbalists will be sensitised about the laws governing them besides being trained how to handle their mixtures so they can meet the set standards for healthy use.

Audio: Lutakome on sensitisation (English)
President of Uganda Herbalists Association, Jamil Mukwaya Lutakome in an interview with the press at Hoima Kolping Hotel on Monday, April 12, 2021 (Photo: Gad Asaba)

Addressing the meeting, the acting Hoima District Health Officer, Dr Lawrence Tumusiime, warned herbalists against stopping patients from using verified drugs like Anti-retroviral therapy (ARVs) used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

However, he said medical doctors and other health care professionals like nurses, pharmacists and therapists who recommend alternative (western) medicine are ready to work with herbalists once their products are verified and certified by the NDA.

Audio: Tumusiime on cooperation (Runyoro/Rutooro)

The physician wondered how advertisers claim that their manufactured herbal drinks can cure a multiplicity of diseases, thus, urging NDA to take action.

Audio: Tumusiime on drinks (English)

The Hoima Resident City Commissioner, Samuel Kisembo, wondered how herbalists prescribe their products without a recommended dosage adding that they put the lives of their clients at stake.

He said government will in all ways rid society of fake drugs through identifying and verifying all herbalists to save the lives of the unsuspecting clients. He also wondered how a single mixture can cure various ailments.

Audio: Kisembo on herbalists (Runyoro/Rutooro)

During the meeting, herbalists were advised to register with NDA and always have defined locations where they can be traced from in case of any report of unqualified personnel.

The meeting that comprised herbalists, health officials and security agents aimed at creating awareness on qualified and unqualified herbalists and procedures they can go through to manufacture standard herbal blends.

It also aimed to bring on board all herbalists as a way of eliminating all fake drugs from the market after being realised that some herbalists have reached a point of making their products in form of drinks being advertised over radios.

The law

Parliament passed the Traditional and Complimentary Medicines Act 2019 on February 5 having amended the Indigenous and Complimentary Medicines Bill, 2015.

The Act prohibits the advertisement of herbal medicines without authorisation by the established council and can result into revocation of the licence and conviction of a fine not exceeding 1,000 currency points (Shs20m).

The Act does not allow radio or television stations to advertise traditional healers without a certificate, licence or clearance from the council.

The law also prohibits the use of the prefix ‘Doctor’ by persons who use traditional medicine.

Herbalists and providers of complimentary medicine are required to take their herbs to the National Therapeutic Research Laboratory which assesses the herbs to know whether they have the necessary ingredients to treat disease. The laboratory works with NDA.

All herbalists are required to have a seal on the package to show that the medicine contains approved ingredients.

The law only applies to those providing herbal medicine not spiritualists.

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