Abuja - The West African Society for Pharmacology, Societe Quest Africaine de Pharmacologie (WASP-SOAP), on Tuesday said about 80 percent of the world's population relied on traditional medicine for their healthcare needs.
Prof. Helen Kwanashie, the president of the society, made this known at the society’s 37th Annual Conference in Lagos.
The theme is: "Promoting Profitable Pharmacological Research In West Africa."
"The use of traditional medicine is something that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been grappling with since 1978.
"They called for the recognition of co-integration of traditional medicine with conventional medicine, for a more effective healthcare delivery.
"This is because they found that about 80 percent of the world population, including Nigeria, use traditional medicine to meet their healthcare needs.
"The ultimate goal is to provide the requisite scientific validations, in line with the WHO's declaration for the co-recognition and integration of both conventional and traditional medicine practices globally,’’ she said.
According to her, pharmacology is the study of the properties and actions of drugs, especially in relation to their therapeutic uses or side effects.
"Drugs may be described as substances that are used for diagnosis, treatment or prevention of diseases.
"For the pharmacologists, however, drugs are not limited to medicinal products, but include all substances that are foreign to the body, including pesticides, cosmetics, alcohol and tobacco,’’ she said.
Kwanashie said that there were challenges regarding the integration of both types of medical practices.
"But, there are many challenges regarding this recognition and integration.
"One of this is that there is frequently no scientific validation of the claims by traditional medicine practitioners and that is where we, as pharmacologists, come in.
"Because, we take their products, we test them in the laboratories and there has to be active collaboration.
"Based on the experiments we carry out, we can tell at the preliminary stage, that the drugs which they claim they use to arrest certain conditions can actually do so.
"And so, that becomes the first stage in drug discovery and development,’’ she said.
Also, Dr Douglas Oliver, a professor of pharmacology at the North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa, said that major transitions were rapidly reshaping Africa.
According to him, despite the accelerated growth in economies and technologies, major uncertainties are still being faced, especially in drug development, medicines, quality healthcare delivery and healthcare science and research development.
Oliver said that there was an urgent need to bring these under control and advance the education of people.
He said that WHO had emphasised six areas for a successful health system.
"They are healthcare services delivery, health work form, health information system, access to essential medicine, health systems financing and leadership and governance.
"Research will have greater impact when locally relevant and regionally contextualised, with country specific data and practices included in the analysis,’’ Oliver said.
Dr Theresa John, the conference chair, said it had become imperative for a smooth blend of the study of nature and science.
According to her, the future will be brighter with a more profitable research in West Africa, and Nigeria, leading to improved products and services, sustainable entrepreneurship and alleviation of most societal problems.