Health Ministry does not monitor herbal medicine
Local stores sell unlicensed herbal medicine without prescription
Many people are resorting to herbal medicine to ‘cure’ hair loss, and buy unlicensed products to help with weight loss. Some of the products sold are dangerous, and could potentially kill consumers.
Weight is becoming a huge problem in Kurdistan, and many people are looking for instant ‘results’ to help with weight loss. Despite the increase of gyms and sports activities, Herbal medicine is still popular. Ali Sabir is 26-years-old and has been struggling with losing weight for years now. He regularly visits an Herbal medicine store to purchase tablets that help with weight loss. Sabir’s friend recommended weight loss tablets, and since then he has been purchasing weight loss products for IQD 80,000, which is approximately US $67.
The herb that Ali purchases is known to reduce appetite, and help with losing weight. He explains, “I don’t eat breakfast or lunch, and can even stand not having dinner as well”. Sabir went on to say, “I used this for three weeks, and lost considerable weight, but during that time I also lost sexual desire”. The only reason he stopped taking the tablets is because he was worried that he might suffer from complete sexual dysfunction if he continues on taking the tablets.
After stopping the medicine, Sabir regains his li- bido. However, his friend who continued on the prescription for a complete period as advised by the seller has become sick, and is currently suffering from malnutrition. As a result of using the tablets for a long period of time, Sabir’s friend has Kidney problems because they were weakened significantly in the process.
It is very shocking that the Health Ministry of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) does not feel responsible for the dozens of herbal medicine stores in Erbil that sell unlicensed products, or even examine the products that are being sold. Dr. Khalis Qadir, official spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, says in an interview with the Globe that his ministry does not recognize these stores as legal and that is why they are not monitored.
“If we visit them, it implies that we recognize them,” Dr. Qadir said. “The herbal medicine that come in original packing and are sold at the pharmacies have all passed quality control and are allowed to be sold. Any other herbal medicine sold anywhere else is considered illegal by the Health Ministry.”
It is not only the health ministry, but also the mayor’s inspection teams that have ignored inspecting the herbal medicine stores. “We currently do not visit these stores,” says Herish Hussein, Deputy Mayor of Erbil. Hussein explains that their teams used to monitor these stores, but now as the health ministry is planning to establish a committee to monitor them, Hussein’s teams have stopped working on it.
This comes at a time when Dr. Qadir claims his ministry does not have any plans for re-organizing these stores. Furthermore, Dr. Ameer Chalabi, Chairman of the Pharmacists Syndicate, told the Globe that there is no coordination between the syndicate and the herbal medicine sellers.
The only official body that is aware of the activities of the herbal medicine stores is the Herbal Sciences Union, which according to Nawzad Tahir, member of the union, it has not recognized all of them. “Part of the store owners do not have sufficient knowledge of the herbs, and they are not members of the union,” Tahir argued in a Globe interview. “Moreover, these stores are opened without getting license from any authorities.”
Tahir, who also owns an herbal medicine store, suggests that the health ministry has to establish a committee to visit these places and determine which stores are reliable and which ones are not.
MP Hawraz Khoshnaw, Deputy Head of Health Committee at the Kurdistan Parliament, agrees with Tahir’s suggestion that the health ministry should take the responsibility of monitoring these stores.
Dr. Chalabi, on the other hand warns that if these herbs are not prepared by professionals and administered by experts, they may threaten people’s lives. “In case of any undesired incidents we will be waiting for opening a court case against the stores, then we will react accordingly,” argued Dr. Qadir.
Some herbs are hanged on a wall to dry.