The World Health Organization states that about 70-90% of the world’s population depend on herbal medicines for their primary health care needs. Globally, the herbal medicine industry is a multi-billion dollar business and it is estimated that about 80% of ALL medicines in use owe their origins either directly or indirectly to medicinal plants. Plant -based pharmaceuticals are said to amount to US$ 43 billion of the total drug market of over US 0 billion. This has attracted a lot of charlatans into the industry (Ghana herbal pharmacopoeia, 1992).
Herbal and other forms of traditional medicine cannot be ignored, and more schools of medicine and pharmacy all over the world are advocating the introduction of some form of curriculum in alternative medicine into medical education.
Orthodox medicine has always argued (albeit very erroneously), that these traditional herbal practices have not been thoroughly researched into and documented.
Contrary to this belief, there is an enormous body of well documented information in literature, and even larger volume of untapped, and undocumented information that needs to be collected, collated and published as reference for both the traditional herbal medical practitioner and his ‘orthodox ‘counterpart.(Mshana et.al 2000)
The increased interest in herbal medicines is as a result of drug resistance leading to treatment failure and re-emergence of diseases combining to reduced confidence in orthodox medicine.
New diseases e.g. HIV/AIDS have emerged without successful orthodox treatment and all kinds of herbal preparations are being offered on the market.
There are chronic diseases that require prolonged and expensive orthodox medicine e.g. diabetes, hypertension, asthma, erectile dysfunction, PUD etc. and most people cannot afford to purchase and therefore would continue with herbal treatment which continues to be cheap if taken from the right source.
Although the main consumers of medicinal plants have been, until recently, the local population, the field has started to attract a number of local and foreign researchers who have discovered the value of traditional healing.
The pharmaceutical industry has come to consider traditional medicine as a source for identification of bio-active agents that can to be used in the preparation of synthetic medicine.
The natural products industry in Europe and the United States is equally interested in traditional medicine. In Europe and in America where the herbal medicine industry is thriving, extracts from medicinal plants are sold in a purified form for the treatment and prevention of all kinds of diseases. We are at a stage where traditional medicine is considered more for its capacity to generate other medicine than for its own sake.
It is true that nature is safe, but there is no chemical that can be certified as completely “safe” (free from risk), since every chemical is toxic at some level of dosage, but it is possible to estimate the risk associated with exposure to the chemical under specified conditions if appropriate tests are carried out. (Katzung, 1992).
Herbal medicines are good if taken from the right source and from a professional. They will be in the position to assess the drug-drug interactions that may result. For instance garlic and aspirin containing medicines should not be used at the same time.
A MEDICAL HERBALIST WITH A DEGREE IN HERBAL MEDICINE. A LAY PASTOR WITH CHRISTIAN FAMILY ASSEMBLIES OF GOD,BUOKROM ESTATE,KUMASI/GHANA
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Many patients living with HIV are experiencing treatment failure due to resistance to HIV medications and incorrectly following treatment regimens., This video module, made available by the Tibotec Global Access & Partnerships Program discusses how resistance occurs and what is being done to prevent it.
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The New England Journal of Medicine recently released the results of a ground-breaking trial of an HIV-prevention method called oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Data from the trial revealed an almost 44 percent reduction of new HIV infections among participants who took the antiretroviral tablet daily to prevent HIV, compared to those who took the placebo pill.
Participants in the study included 2,499 HIV-negative gay men, transgender women, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) from Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand and the United States; these were randomly chosen to receive the antiretroviral (ARV) drug TDF/FTC (brand name Truvada) or a placebo pill. Regular HIV tests were administrated throughout the study. At the end of the trial, 36 participants who took Truvada had become infected, compared to 64 of the participants who took the placebo pill.
Similar trials are currently being conducted among heterosexuals in Africa and injection drug users in Thailand. Additionally, a trial of a similar ARV in gel form is currently being tested in three US cities, Pittsburgh, Boston and Birmingham, Alabama.
Global Health Progress is encouraged by the outcome of this trial, as it could lead to the prevention of HIV in developing countries and around the world. However, additional funding is needed not only to continue developing drugs like this, but to increase access to medicines around the world. As the world of medicine continues to advance, it is the responsibility of the entire international community to facilitate access to medicines. Success depends on all sectors working in partnership; not only to make medicines more accessible, but also to ensure continued innovation into new medicines for the treatment and prevention of all diseases.
Research-based biopharmaceutical companies help the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic by providing millions of doses of anti-retroviral drugs at discounted prices and, in some cases, for free to patients in developing countries. These donation programs for Least Developed Countries and sub-Saharan Africa, together with programs for lower and middle income countries, apply to more than 87 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
Global Health Progress supports efforts to raise awareness and mobilize resources to address health challenges, including supporting the development of tomorrow’s medicines and improving access to medicines.
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