The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has developed a curriculum in consultation with two technical universities in the country to run courses on good manufacturing practices for the herbal industry.
The curriculum is also expected to take the trainees, known as "qualified persons," through the manufacturing, preservation and packaging of herbal products among other basic topics in the industry.
The universities to run the programme are the Accra and Tamale Technical universities.
Briefing the Daily Graphic, the Director of Herbal Medicine at the FDA, Mr Emmanuel Yaw Kwarteng, explained that the decision to develop the programme was in recognition of the fact that majority of the practitioners needed capacity building to enable them to appreciate the need for regulation of their products.
He explained that the intention was to train knowledgeable persons in the industry, "who can speak the Drug Regulation language," adding that every practitioner in the industry will be required to sponsor at least one person to pursue the course and at the end, receive a certificate.
"We will need at least one person in our register from each practitioner to undergo the programme such that if we are raising concerns or introducing modern methods to improve on the products, we shall be on the same page with the practitioners," he explained.
Mr Kwarteng further explained that under the agreement for the programme in the two universities, "there shall be regional campuses for the purposes of getting all practitioners irrespective of their locations to enrol without any difficulties."
He said a lot of consultations had gone into the development of the curriculum, adding that but for the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme would have been finalised by now.
Barring any hitches, the universities would roll out the programme in the 2020/21 academic year, Mr Kwarteng said.
According to Mr Kwarteng, initially, there was serious scepticism, mistrust and suspicion between the FDA and the practitioners because "they did not understand. They thought we wanted to hijack their business but now they know that it is in their interest and so they have accepted it."
Over the last three years, he said, the FDA had worked with practitioners towards standardisation in the preparation of herbs, such that the same medicine could be prepared by different people using the same yardstick and still obtain the same efficacy.
That, he emphasised, was to put herbal medicine on a sound footing, so that such products could be included in the country's essential list of medicines that could be prescribed by doctors.
Mr Kwarteng emphasised that there was an urgent need to change the narratives of herbal medicine in the country because “currently, all registered herbal medicines by the FDA in the country are based on mostly safety and some level of efficacy.
So far, the efficacy of all registered herbal products was based on the anecdotal use of the leaves or plants used for the product.
“Proven efficacy, therefore, requires more scientific approach which the industry lacks and so the qualified persons will bridge this gap,” he reiterated.