The University of the Free State (UFS)’s department of pharmacology displayed its products and services at the first World Health Organisation (WHO) Traditional Medicine Global Summit held this month from 17-18 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. The summit took place alongside the G20 health ministerial meeting. India holds the current G20 Presidency, and next year the G20 Presidency is Brazil and South Africa.
The university also exhibited traditional medicine product PHELA for immune reconstitution, which has been re-purposed for Covid-19 and long Covid. The event was streamed live with 350 participants invited by WHO and another 200 attendees invited by the Indian government.
The director of the department of pharmacology at the UFS, Professor Motlalepula Matsabisa, who is also an African traditional medicine expert, was invited to serve as a member of the summit external advisory group for the WHO’s traditional medicine global summit. He delivered a presentation titled: Regulations, intellectual property and implementation: Ensuring patient safety and economic efficiency in developing and adopting innovations in TM to healthcare’.
Wearing different caps
Professor Matsabisa also took part in various capacities including being co-chair of the world health body’s Global Traditional Medicine Centre and chair of the WHO regional advisory committee on traditional medicines for Covid-19. He said they also wanted to use the platform to showcase the science behind the products such as PHELA for immune reconstitution. In addition, they also exhibited the science and the research and development that has been undertaken to get PHELA where it is including all scientific publications of PHELA.
The objective of the summit, according to Professor Matsabisa, was to secure political commitment and collective action towards the evidence and equity-based integration and equal co-existence of traditional medicine for the health and wellbeing of people and the planet. The summit also looked at serious and practical resolutions regarding the contribution of traditional medicines into integrated health, planetary health, as well as application in overall health and well-being.
As a chief exponent of traditional medicines, Professor Matsabisa said he hopes to see, after the summit, African countries giving more attention to:
- traditional medicines research support
- traditional medicine’s contribution to health systems and
- traditional medicine’s contribution to formal economies in Africa.
Furthermore, he said he wants to see mutual acceptance of well researched, quality, safe, and effective traditional medicinal products sold and used across the six WHO regions without any bottlenecks. He also said he wished to see the resolutions made at the August G20 being carried over by the next G20 Presidency.
Health tea products
The UFS also unveiled six indigenous health teas products, which are new to the market. These teas have the best medicinal properties scientifically endorsed by the African Medicines Innovation and Technology Development Platform (AMITD) and pharmacology. “We market these teas as ‘drinking tea for a reason, not because it is teatime’. These teas will shake the tea industry market. So, we are introducing these products into the global market,” claimed Professor Matsabisa. Also included in the UFS’s delegation to the event were Vusi Paul Ncume and Tebogo Machethe. Ncume is a Master’s student in pharmacology and practising traditional health practitioner, while Machethe is the director for Innovation and Contracts in the UFS’ directorate of research development.
Reviewing South Africa’s Medicine Act Macheche took part in a session on ‘Innovation, entrepreneurship and equitable sharing of benefits derived from utilization of Indigenous knowledge’. The summit also approved and supported the participation of Thobeka Kentane, another experienced traditional health practitioner with a legal background. She is part of the UFS pharmacology working group of experts, headed by Professor Matsabisa. The group is currently reviewing South Africa’s main medicines act and drafting recommendations around a regulatory framework for commercial production of South African traditional medicines