More efforts to modernise herbal medicines production

On 14 February 2023 at 08:15

The National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) has vowed to valorize the herbal medicines and ensure they are modernized and used as an efficient alternative to modern medicine.

The move comes after the industrial agency in partnership with FXB-Rwanda last week, Friday 10, 2023 launched a Phyto Social Enterprise Project (POSE) which seeks to increase the production of herbal medicinal products for local and regional consumption.

The event took place in Huye district where NIRDA’s Applied Research and Development Department is based.

The Huye Research Centre has a state of the art life sciences laboratory and a botanical garden where more herbal medicinal plants will be planted.

The POSE project seeks to valorize rich medicinal plant diversity, sustain local production of herbal medicinal products, and increase economic opportunities for the community.

It also seeks to contribute to the research on medicinal plants for their safety, efficiency, and quality control.

According to Dr. Christian Sekomo Birame, the Director General of NIRDA, the three-year project could ensure more herbal medicinal plants are cultivated and high quality phytomedicines produced and used as alternatives to modern medicine.

“We want to valorize herbal; we will first engage in the cultivation of herbal medicines in our botanical garden and work with the community around,” he said

“We will then use our life sciences laboratory to produce herbal medicines and then transfer to the private sector for commercialization, we want those products to be modernized and be sold in pharmacies as they are known to be an alternative to modern medicine,” added Dr. Birame.

He noted that NIRDA will also seek to commercialize already developed products while more research could be conducted on new ones.

Dr. Birame said that it will also help with other research institutions including the academia to do more research to turn herbal medicinal plants into improved phytomedicines.

The partnership will also see companies involved in production of herbal medicine trained to embrace the implementation of Good Manufacturing (GPM) process and comply with national standards and have them registered and certified.

“We also intend to create more jobs, through employing casual workers while the project will also have a few permanent staff, this is really a crucial project and we are optimistic it will have a positive impact,” he added.

Why the project is very important

Despite the role herbal medicine plays in treating several diseases as an alternative to modern medicine, it has remained less developed and in the hands of traditional healers so that they don’t meet standards of being certified and accepted both at national and international market.

They are not aware of the properties of the active ingredients or how the doses should be adjusted according to the plant’s raw material used in the drug formulation processes

According to health experts, herbal medicine or phytomedicine play a big role in the health sector development and in the treatment of several diseases as an alternative way to modern medicine. However, official figures indicate that Rwanda imported 98 per cent of medicines and spent nearly US$100 million in 2019.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 88 per cent of all countries are estimated to use traditional medicine especially herbal medicines, acupuncture, yoga, indigenous therapies among others.

Besides, over 40 percent of pharmaceutical formulations are based on natural products and landmark drugs, including aspirin and artemisinin originated from traditional medicine according to WHO.

The WHO also says that the contribution of traditional medicine to the national health systems is not yet fully realized and traditional medicine workers’ facilities, expenditures and products are not fully accounted for.

According to Jean Damascene Ndayisaba, FXB-Rwanda Legal Representative hailed NIRDA’s commitment to improve herbal medicinal plants and turn them into quality products.

“We are committed to making this partnership a success,” he said. “We want to make sure that the community around us benefit from it through getting jobs and learning how to cultivate medicinal plants in their gardens,” added Ndayisab.

The National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA), is a government institution that has been mandated with a mission to enable a generation of industrial innovators to become competitive through technology monitoring, acquisition, development and transfer and applied research.

Dr. Christian Sekomo Birame, NIRDA DG speaks during the launch of the Project in Huye District.
Officials from the National Industrial Research and Development Agency together with those from FXB-Rwanda, inspect one of the gardens where herbal medicinal plants shall be cultivated.