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Campaign targets street medicines

by Sunday Express
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Limpho Sello

THE coalition of Health Professionals and the Ministry of Health have embarked on a campaign to educate the nation about the dangers posed by street medicines especially to reproductive and maternal health.

Through district visits, the campaign is targeting health professionals and community leaders in the hope that they will convey the message to the public who are vulnerable to the dangers of street medicines.

Speaking during a consultative meeting at Victory Hall in Maseru yesterday, National Health Training College (NHTC) lecturer, Mathabelo Putsoane said street medicines which consisted of modern and traditional medicines, posed a great danger to the public through unverified claims that they cured a wide range of illnesses.

Ms Putsoane said there was a rise of herbal products claiming to improve maternal health and other diseases and these were carried in the media especially on radio adding that the claims have not been substantiated by any documented scientific evidence.

“We have seen a rise in the advertisements of street medicines and herbal products where the producers claim that they cure different illnesses yet there is no documentation of cure for such diseases,” Ms Putsoane said.

“The retail pharmacists are in a better position to prescribe and advise patients about these products.”

She said it was very risky for pregnant women, especially those who were HIV positive and on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) to use herbal products.

“If pregnant women take both the ARVs and the herbal products they do a lot of drug interactions which pose serious risks,” she said.

 Speaking on the country’s current maternal health situation, Ms Putsoane said: “there are 487 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births”.

“Sustainable development goal 3 also requires us to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 births but there is a challenge as cultural practices are implicated in maternal deaths.

“72 percent of pregnant women with HIV are on ART and concomitant use with herbal products results in drug interactions, reduced activity and adverse effects.

“Some herbal products therapies have undergone careful evaluation and have been found to be safe and effective. However, there are others that have been found to be ineffective or possibly harmful.

“Herbal products do not have any documentation related to safety and without documented evidence to assure safety, quality and efficacy of herbal products safety cannot be guaranteed,” Ms Putsoane said.

She said pregnant women used herbal products because of claims that they assisted with a timely and painless birth, remove discharge and reduce labour pains.

She also said there was an urgent need for strong medicine regulation, legislation of the Medicines Bill and an empowered Medicine Regulatory Authority to enforce its mandate of protecting public from street medicines and advertisements.

“All medicines for example; herbal products should be registered and provide evidence of their claims through preclinical and clinical data. Research is needed to evaluate the impacts of herbal products on the public.

“There is need for the establishment of a pharmacovigilance programme for the detection and prevention of adverse effects of drugs for the public safety,” Ms Putsoane said.

Speaking at the same meeting, the Pharmaceutical Society of Lesotho (PSL) President, Gertrude Mothibe said they were keen on “establishing the current situation at district level, engaging key stakeholders in identifying the problem and finding solutions with civil society leaders and health professionals”.

Ms Mothibe said the objective of the Ministry of Health was to ensure that people used safe medicines from approved health institutions, provided by qualified health professionals but there was evidence of unsafe use and sale of western and traditional medicines in the streets.

She said medicines were very useful for curing diseases but if used irrationally they could be poisonous or ineffective.

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