Kenya Creates New Regulations for Herbal Remedies

Authorities in Kenya will soon institute regulations on the operations of herbalists who sell counterfeit drugs wrongly described as herbal remedies to patients, reports Business Daily Africa.

“The regulations will require that herbalists register their medicines and that those medicines have to go for laboratory analysis,” Edward Abwao – assistant chief pharmacist at the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, which governs the sale of medicine in Kenya – told the news source.

Chief Pharmacist Kipkerich Koskei reports that previously herbalists had been given freer rein on the basis of “trust” that their products are safe and effective, but he goes on to say that the board now realizes that trust was misplaced.

Abwao cited sexual enhancement drugs and those affecting the immune system as examples of common counterfeit drugs passed off as herbal remedies. “The active ingredients in such medicines are way above what is recommended,” he told the news source.

Illegitimate remedies sold by herbalists have had numerous ill effects on Kenyans, according to the news source. Last year, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board found that counterfeited herbal contraceptives resulted in women having children who displayed highly precocious signs of adolescence. The Kenyatta National Hospital admitted 7 affected women and 6 affected children, including three-year-old girls who had started their menstrual cycles as a result of the false herbal treatment.

Ephraim Kanake, the chairman of the Consumers Federation of Kenya, cited even more severe consequences of illegitimate medications sold by herbalists, telling the news source that “these medicines are causing deaths, in particular [among] those using them to manage diabetic conditions.”

Although some herbalists have embraced the new rules that eliminate those who sell counterfeit drugs from the market, many have raised concerns over the new requirement that their medicines be submitted to governmental analysis.

The news source reports that many herbal remedies currently sold do not have strict recipes, as herbalists have no means of testing the herbs they recommend to patients. Most remedies are created using knowledge passed down orally through generations of herbalists.

“If the government could assure us on this issue and allow us to patent our formulas, then we shall agree to give out the ingredients we use,” James Kamwangi, a Nairobi herbalist, told the news source.

According to statistics published by the World Health Organization, at least 80 percent of Kenyans have tried herbal medicines on at least one occasion.