When Tradition is Big Business

70% of Ghana’s population relies on centuries-old herbal medicines. However, a dramatic increase in demand has turned time-tested medicines into sometimes-dangerous big business and prompted the government to regulate the industry.

According to Edith Annan, the country adviser for medicines at WHO’s Accra office, one of the goals of regulation—in addition to safety—is to “get some economic benefit.” However, since the government began requiring clinical trials of some herbal medicines, the only trials performed have been for foreign pharmaceutical firms.

Meanwhile, herbalists like Theodore Tetteh think the requirements are too much, too soon. “It’s like you are taking a child who’s learning to walk—all of a sudden, you say he should run.”

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