Professor Adeduro Adegeye is a professor of Agriculture Economics with four decades experience from the University of Ibadan. He retired from the university in 2009 and had a brief stint at Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Ikeji-Arakeji and presently the Director of Policy and Projects Management of University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, UNIMED. In the interview, with the Deputy Editor, BISI OLOMINU, he speaks on the medicinal values of herbal medicine, how it can be explored for revenue generation. Excerpts:
What brought about the initiative of herbal medicine in UNIMED?
I was invited to the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, UNIMED to come and give a talk on entrepreneurship to the newly recruited staff of the varsity some five years ago. In that lecture I mentioned what herbal medicine could do on our health service delivery, because most of the universities that we have, University of Ibadan, UNILAG, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria teach only orthodox medicine, without any regard to herbal medicine at all.
And I said if this university is a specialized one, we must engage in specialized courses, the university must be distinguished and we must be able to teach our students to be distinguished by adding herbal medicine to their courses. We have herbs around us, Indians are coming to our country with a lot of herbal drugs, using the herbs to better their healthcare system. We have more herbs than what Indians have, but we are doing nothing with them. Herbs are part of our natural environment, but many think that they could not give us better health, what a great misconception. Herbal medicine is as good as orthodox medicine, even if not better.
Again, we discovered that a lot of money can be made through herbal medicine. Trillions of dollars goes into it, even more than this amount can be generated from herbal medicine, more than what some countries generate from petroleum. India, China are excelling through herbal medicine.
So, I said then if we have this university as a medical varsity and it is not scrapped, to God be the glory at that time people were worried that if another person comes in, he might scrap the university. In fact, the varsity was actually recommended to be scrapped. But we said if it survived this kind of politics and had enough money to pay workers’ salary, we will find a means to conveniently pay 75percent salary of the workers.
We know that medical doctors earn more than other people or even a professor. I am a professor of Agriculture Economics, my salary is less than that of a professor of Gynecology or Psychiatric. So we have the belief that if the university in Akungba Akoko does not have a medical course, UNIMED must be able to complement its medical courses with herbal medicine.
This is the reason the university is going into herbal medicine to work side by side with orthodox medicine. This is being done in India and today it is a country to be reckoned with in both orthodox and herbal medicines. I was in India, I went to Bangkok Institute where they took me to a 42 hectares of land planted with various herbs. Although they planted mushroom and vegetables on the land, but majority of the land have over 1000 medicinal plants.
They started telling me the usage of each plant and gave me a particular one to go and multiply it in Nigeria. I saw two plants there, one is from Nigeria, and the other strange to me. I took the one strange and brought it to Akure and tried to multiply it. One died on the way and the remaining one we have grown to a million plants. Presently, we still believe that we are the only one with that plant in Nigeria.
We intend to teach our medical students to appreciate herbal medicine, so that, they can earn more money and also provide cheaper health service to the people.
How have you been able to finance the project and how much it has cost the university?
So far it has not cost the varsity anything. I brought in my own idea and presently producing the drugs in my company. But, I am teaching herbal medicine and entrepreneurship in the university, telling the upcoming doctors to be independent and not depend on government for everything, even as medical students.
I persuaded the vice chancellor of the university on this and it was accepted. We are ready to commence planting of herbs at Bolorunduro. The land had been paid for by Agagu administration.
The place they gave us also for School of Public Health is also a gift to the university. But the university council has approved N8million for that of Bolorunduro, in case we are going to start development there. But nobody has touched a kobo from the money approved by the university council.
The equipment in turning the herbs into capsules, were they made locally or imported?
The only equipment we are making use of is capsules making machine and the are doing the drugs manually now. But when you take it to a higher level, you now think of mechanized machine where there will be automatic production of capsules. We are presently using semi-manual.
Right from the planting, we do all in Nigeria, except the capsules which we are presently producing in China. We should be able to produce that one locally. Even if you look at the capsules making machine, we can do it here because it is made of plastic. If it is in India within two days they will reproduce that one.
Your products in the market, how competitive are they, who handles the publicity or is it about good products will always sell?
It is presently a one man squad, trying to develop the product, to convince people to use the products. But our joy is that in Lagos, southeast and other areas, people who have used the products are coming back to ask for more. So for about six months, we didn’t advertise, but we have started now.
We need to do more, but we have good testimonies. I have gone to the Ministry of Health and the department of medicine, but we have not been able to sit down with the pharmacists. I have been there dozen times, but I have not been able to meet with anyone. I have told the governor when he came to Bolorunduro to commission the Centre for Herbal Medicine and Drugs Production and on the need to tell the pharmacists in the state to allow our products be in pharmacy shops.
In India, if you get to pharmacy shops, on the left you have the herbal medicines and right you have the orthodox medicines. So, when you come in and you say you have headache, they ask you which one do you prefer, whatever you want is given to you. But here we are afraid to say we use herbs.
That is what we should have been doing in this country. As a Pharmacist, you should be able to go online and google about the vegetables, work on them to test their efficacy. We expected that they should be sympathetic and say why are we buying paracetamol and others. These product that we have here have been used to control six diseases; diabetes, high blood pressure, insomnia, arthritis, ulcers and within two weeks you will not see the ailments again. Even those suffering from high or low sugar, within two weeks, our medicines will reduce it to normal.
Those who have bought for their parents, the product is good for old memory revival, good for those occupying high places, those doing a lot of work should also use the product.
Is the university planning to go into production of Viagra which is hot cake in the market?
This product too can boost libido, because we know that orthodox medicines are being use to treat diabetes, high blood pressure. When you use orthodox medicines, they will reduce your ability to perform sexually but our product will increase your sexuality, if you are tired you take the capsules, throughout the day you will be active. Those with partial stroke, within few weeks, they will recover. We have our testimonies and those who have used the capsules are telling good stories about us.
What is your relationship with NAFDAC, has your products been endorsed by the agency. What are you doing to protect your products from being adulterated?
As I have said, the university is still working on how to work with me on these products, not as individual now but as a company. We still have the drugs here with us, but when we are in total relationship, the school will take over the mechanized production of the drugs. We are meeting gradually and after the taking over, we are going to have a director there, farm manager too and, will be in charge of telling them what to do.
I saw the Bangkok Institute in India and had what they are doing there. NAFDAC have approved one of our products, others NAFDAC have not approved. It is done in the United States, if a drug has not been approved, it will be on the product label.
On the approved product, I can say it is effective because it has been evaluated, satisfied and when the university engages in mass production of the product, because it would have been tested scientifically. It combat aging, reason why Indians live long because they always use it.
On adulterated, it will be difficult for another person to compete with us. Even though such should happen, it would take five years for the person to get it, even such must have gotten other ingredients from us.
How can this initiative rake in revenue for the university?
Honestly, I can tell you that the university will pay the salary of all workers from herbal medicine. If we say we generate about N100million every month from the medicine, when you multiply that by 12, you have about N1billion every year from selling our drugs.