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Red Alert : How crooks buy drugs, repackage them as herbal products


Bogus herbal practitioners in some counties buy actual drugs, repackage them as herbal products and sell to unsuspecting citizens.
They dilute the drugs, print colourful stickers and sell to unsuspecting members of the public. The scandal has raised concern among stakeholders and even touched off a media campaign to advise the public against rushing to every herbalist around the corner for health solutions.
In some towns like Athi River, Kitui, Wote, Matuu, Machakos and Mwala, the influx of fake herbal doctors in the field has reduced the quality and effectiveness of drugs being sold.
Some of these practitioners rip off victims their hard-earned money in exchange of ineffective drugs.
Traditional medicine is the sum total of knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures.
They are used to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve or treat physical and mental illnesses.
Nathan Mue is wondering as to why sale of herbal medicine in Kenya is not regulated.
“In fact herbalists do not require any special education skills to be licensed by the department of culture and social services,” he said
Mue says this unfolding scenario of herbal doctors in every market and roadsides has forced residents to raise concern.
“The government should promise to rattle illegal practitioners and review the legal rules regulating the herbal sector in the country,” Mue said
Mue says the state should promise stringent action and measures so as to lock out unqualified practitioners. “Many deaths have been witnessed especially in poverty riddled areas and majority of people have died of diseases such as cancer, typhoid and amoeba even after getting herbal treatment,” he said
Investigations show that others rebrand containers with their trademarks defining them as either a dietary supplement or an herbal medicine and also as first class but all in vain.
In some African countries, 80pc of the population depends on traditional medicine for primary health care.
Munyiva Nduva says that in many developed countries, 75pc to 82pc of the population has used some form of the alternative.
“Herbal treatments are the most popular form of traditional medicine, and are highly lucrative in the international market place,” she said.
Traditional medicine practices have been adopted in different cultures and regions without the parallel advance of international standards and methods for evaluation.
Not many countries have national policies for traditional medicine. Regulating traditional medicine products, practices and practitioners is difficult due to variations in definitions and categorisations of traditional medicine therapies.
A single herbal product could be defined as a food, a dietary supplement or an herbal medicine, depending on the country.
This disparity in regulations at the national level has implications for international access and distribution of products.
The safety, effectiveness and quality of finished herbal medicine products depend on the quality of their source materials and how elements are handled through production processes.
The expanding herbal product market could drive overharvesting of plants and threaten biodiversity.
Last year, irate stakeholders in Machakos and Makueni counties urged the Indigenous Scientific Collaboration and Research Association to crack the whip on unlicensed herbalists.
The stakeholders told this paper that there is an increment of unlicensed traditional medicine men operating in the two counties saying that such herbalists will face the full force of the law.
They want ISCRA to collaborate with the county governments in a bid to enforce the new laws, in order to rule out all quacks in the industry in order to streamline economic recovery of the county.
Investigations show that these bogus herbal medicine men mint millions from gullible Machakos residents.

By Cornny Kimbui

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