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Opinions of Sunday, 6 March 2016

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi. Kwaku

Are herbal medicine vendors ripping us off and killing us softly?

From voice of Reason.

Can our fragile NHIS withstand the pressure and the negative impacts of the herbal medications we’re naively consuming?

“This is ka-na-wu information center. Dr Esewani is here to sell you medicine that cures every disease. He also has something for sexual weakness and those of you who have difficulty getting pregnant.”

Is this our answer to poor healthcare delivery system in the country?
Ghanaians are naively, wantonly consuming and dying from the local herbal medications which have little or no instructions or side effects warnings. Meanwhile, the vendors of these medications (who based on nothing but wishful thinking and fortified by the ignorance of the rural areas consumers) are laughing all the way to the bank with impunity.

Anyway, who regulates our so-called “herbal medicine doctors” (vendors)? Aren’t they killing us softly while our leaders and policy makers look on unconcerned?

I’m madder than a wet hen. I’m so mad right now my ass could chew a gum. While I’m trying to attempt to maintain a degree of professionalism here as I write this, please excuse me in advance if pure unadulterated venom occasionally seeps into my reportage.
I don’t get it! Am I the only sole in Ghana who thinks something needs to be done about the over –saturated herbal medication advertisements on our airwaves and information centers across the land?
As a nation, do we have enough resources (medically and financially) to contain the fallouts from the unhygienic, unscientific, sun-tanned and dangerous so-called, “herbal medications” we’re wantonly consuming on the daily basis?
For many years the field of medicine has been trying to prevent diseases .Because it’s the cheapest way to manage healthcare delivery services. Then one might ask why a developing country like Ghana seems not to care about its citizens’ wellbeing and welfare?Instead of preventing diseases we’re wantonly embracing them without a qualm by using unproven ,unregulated and untested herbal medicines on the daily basis.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all herbal medicines are bad. All that I am saying is the majority of these herbal medicines are substandard, outdated, and unhygienic; dosage wrongly calibrated and their effectiveness falsely claimed to cure every disease imaginable.
Ironically, if this nation was invaded by a foreign country and its army is killing us the Ghanaian leadership will take arms and fight. But here is a situation where the entire nation is under siege by the cockamamie herbal doctors and the leadership is looking the other way, as if it doesn’t require any national attention. Have Ghanaians (more specifically, the underclass and rural folks) done anything wrong to be disowned by the leadership of this great nation? So the average Ghanaian’s life doesn’t worth a pesewa anymore?
Unfortunately the health Insurance system is broke, our hospitals and clinics are underperforming and some medical personnel treats patients like dirt; so people who don’t have money to go to the private hospitals and travel abroad to seek a better health care have no choice but to religiously and figuratively marry to the local herbal medicine vendors to cure their diseases.
But, how many more Ghanaians have to die before the government gets up and do something drastic to solve this problem? This is not a matter of money. It’s a matter of dedication to the needs and aspirations of the citizens. But, we handle every national security issue the same way: Wait until something drastic happens before we make a move.
If Akpetehie distillers are regulated why not “manufactures” of herbal medicine? I strongly suggest that a national board should be set up to regulate and monitor the local herbal medication manufactures and vendors. We shouldn’t stop there. In order to get national stamp of approval every herbal medicine must be tested in a lab to ascertain its chemical contents and side effects.
Yes, I know for years the healthcare debate is always about giving more Ghanaians affordable access to tons of doctors, hospitals and medicine, yet the vast majority of healthcare decisions are really made by individuals—whether choices are about diet, exercise or ways to mange chronic conditions; like diabetes and heart disease. But, this is a situation where the national and local governments can’t afford to stand by like spectators while people die needlessly from overdose and wrong diagnosis.
This is why: when a patient fails to follow even a basic regiment of prescription drug, it can leave serious medical complications and the government ends up paying the bill. In other words, it costs the government more money when people don’t take the right medications for their chronic diseases and later on show up at the hospital for treatment.
That is why we need the government’s role and interventions by monitoring how these herbal medications are manufactured, advertised, processed and distributed for consumption.
Yeah I know. What you don’t see matters less. And what doesn’t hurt you doesn’t need your attention. Unfortunately the majority of the consumers of these local herbal drugs is poor and lives in the rural areas of Ghana .These people’s problems or aliments don’t seem to register on the national seismograph so the death rate will continue while the vendors make their money. But, show me the country that has all the natural resources but it’s poor and miserable and I will show you a country that doesn’t care much about its citizens’ wellbeing.
Trust me, all the hospitals and health insurance we are using are meaningless if we continue to allow a few untrained; selfish individuals to manage our healthcare delivery system from the warehouses at Okanshie drug lane. These self-appointed “doctors “hardly have senior high school diplomas, yet they’re making zillions of cedis with no sweat, all in the name of curing diseases.
These people have demonstrated a complete lack of concern for those they’re pretending to help, a total disrespect for those they supposed to be helping to fight their diseases.
Shame on all of us. Double shame on all of us for standing idly by while a few individuals rip us off from the Okanshie drug lane. How do we feel when we go to bed at night knowing very well that we’re part of the solution but you did nothing to change the situation?
Now, if there’s anyone I left out to offend—don’t worry, there’s always a next time.
Until later, stay informed, be educated and blessed.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi. (Voice Of reason)
*The author is a social commentator, the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Foundation for disadvantaged youth of Asuom, and the Director of Anderson Innovative leadership Academy.