Prof Motlalepula Matsabisa, Professor and Director of Pharmacology at the University of the Free State (UFS), is collaborating with FARMOVS, a clinical research company at the UFS, on a number of studies in the future to advance clinical research on African Traditional Medicines (ATM).
Prof Matsabisa, deputy President of the South African Society for Basic and Clinical Pharmacology Society (SASBCP), Guest Professor Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) and the current chairperson of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicines, is passionate about African Traditional Medicines (ATM) and the contribution that it could make in creating a healthier society.
One of the aims of the Expert Advisory Committee is to find effective solutions against the COVID-19 virus. The committee is also supported by the African Union (AU), the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC – Africa), and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). His role as chairperson of the committee, may be focussed on Covid-19, but he believes that a much wider approach should be taken.
Solutions based on sound scientific evidence
“Our project has a unique advantage in that it has access to the largest accredited clinical research organisation on the African continent. FARMOVS, which is situated on the UFS campus, provides guidance and the needed scientific research expertise to ensure the safety, efficacy, and quality of traditional medicine products, before the product goes to market.
“We can conduct ICH GCP compliant clinical research on traditional medicines and then develop medicinal products that are approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). This will be a unique differentiator in the natural medicine market, as most of the natural products that consumers buy daily have not undergone clinical trials nor are registered with SAHPRA,” says Prof Matsabisa.
According to him, the UFS and FARMOVS care about the health of their patients and want to give consumers access to quality, safe and of course fit for the intended use medicines. “We are not driven by money where we make disclaimers that our products have not been evaluated for safety and efficacy while we put profits first. We do the science and profits are far secondary in our operations. Together we want to create a reputable ATM industry backed by science and clinical research and development”.
Prof Matsabisa firmly believes that clinical research collaboration is the key to unlocking the potential of Africa’s most valuable natural resource. He says ATM should explore while preserving Africa’s intellectual property and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS). This can be achieved, according to him, by collaborating with our experts in ATM, such as Traditional Healers. They should be part of this initiative from the onset.
“The practitioners of ATM should be the driving force of the clinical research journey from inception to the final development and production of novel consumer solutions”, says Prof Matsabisa.
Medicinal plants have previously been used to eradicate life threatening viruses
Although medicinal plants have been used to combat previous pandemics such as the Spanish Flu, Avian influenza and others, we still believe rigorous control of the efficacy and efficacy thereof is still to be supported by scientific research and development, says Prof Matsabisa.
Says Prof Matsabisa, “We have more resources now, which is why we should take the next step in research to promote consumer safety and to offer them effective alternatives. We do the science to build the industry and develop sustained consumer confidence in traditional medicines”.
The idea is not to compete with pharmaceutical companies, but simply to add reliable and safe alternatives to the consumer market”.
Africa should lead the way to a healthier future for all
“My vision is for Africa to share our valuable resources with the world by developing, producing, and distributing world-class medicinal solutions. We are more than capable of doing so and now is the time to do it. Numerous discussions have taken place where other African countries will join South Africa in conducting multi-centre studies in clinical trials for traditional medicines.
“We need to develop or create, based on this current collaborative work with partners like FARMOVS, health centres with a strong focus on African medicines, health products and healing, but in a very strong collaborative initiative with other health systems”, concludes Prof Matsabisa.
Dr Yolandi Swart, Medical Director at FARMOVS expressed her excitement about the potential of this research collaboration. “This is a completely new focus area in clinical research, and we are very grateful to be part of this research journey. Passionate academic researchers such as Prof Matsabisa can access valuable resources when they collaborate with us. We can offer 47 years’ clinical research experience, ensure that patient safety is the focus of each clinical trial conducted at our research clinic, while producing clinical research data of the highest standards. Our bioanalytical services division uses the latest technology and we are familiar with the regulatory processes in South Africa, which adds even more value for researchers and clients. We hope that this collaboration will yield positive outcomes that will benefit South Africans and consumers around the world”.