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New capsules to ease your pain



ROMA – A SENIOR lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), ’Maseabata Ramathebane, has developed two pharmaceutical capsules. You will soon have an opportunity to lay your hands on them.
In the process, you might find a product that soothes your pains and diabetes, eases your cough and act against your high blood.
Something interesting is brewing in Lesotho.

Zealous traditional medicine advocates are producing untested oral herbal formulations and selling them en masse in the streets.
Standing by the sidelines with acute interest in the concoctions is the NUL pharmacist, Ramathebane.
“Most of these formulations are bulky preparations, their dosing is imprecise, they expire quickly and the amount of active ingredient is not standard for formulations of the same type, and they experience poor storage conditions,” Ramathebane said.
But don’t be quick to judge — there is hope!

“Improving such formulations by creating their solid dosage forms would make them more pharmaceutically acceptable,” she said.
Here is how the story unfolded.
Some people who make a traditional medicine in the name of “Ha Ba Chake,” which, when translated, could mean, “Let them Take a Visit,” crossed the borders of the School in the Roma Valley.

The traditionalists introduced their medicine which, they claimed, would cause you to leave your sickbed and “take a visit,” apparently to your friends.
They wanted Ramathebane to test their product so that it could be acceptable to the market.
As time would prove, they made a wise decision.

But Ramathebane had a different idea on the approach.
It should not be just about testing.
They first had to disclose what it was that had to be tested, in a confidential manner, and a signed agreement was drawn, such that if necessary, the medicine could be improved before being tested.
They disclosed.*

“I realized that a lot of work still had to be done,” she said.
More importantly, she learned about the plant that was used in the medicine, whose compounds formed the active ingredient.
So she immediately consulted one NUL botanist to identify the plant, which grows liberally in Lesotho, and once identified, “me and my team started making a thorough research about this plant”.

In their literature review, they found that extensive pharmacological studies had shown the plant as having a suite of properties including anti-nociceptive, cardio protective, antioxidant, antigenotoxic, vasorelaxant, gastro protective, antispasmodic, immunomodulating, antioedematogenic, anti-diabetic properties and anti-dyslipidaemic effects.

At one time, they found out, the plant was used in a cough mixture in the UK, and it was later abandoned, only to be resuscitated later as one of the highly regarded medicinal plants there.
It has been revealed that the plant’s active ingredient has properties similar to that of atenolol in treating hypertension and glibenclamide in treating diabetes.

That is not all. The active ingredient has been found to rank in between morphine and brufen in its ability as a pain reliever, morphine being at the top of the list. The pharmacists then went into the laboratory, first to identify and confirm the active ingredient in the plant and then to extract the active ingredient.

Several methods of extraction were used and extraction by maceration produced the greatest yield.
“Interpretation of FTIR spectra confirmed the presence of the active ingredient in the extract before and after it was formulated into a capsule,” Ramathebane said.

Now time came for the improvement of this medicine.
First the researchers had to go back to the basics as a starting point.
The sensory part is the most obvious, the medicine was extremely bitter, as most of you who has ever tasted traditional medicine may testify.
So Ramathebane and the team “improved the taste without adding sugar to keep the medicine acceptable for some forms of ailments.”
And, you might have already thought about this, some of these mixtures look quite un-appealing for something that has to go through your mouth.
“So we also worked on improving the color.”

Now the mixture would appear and feel better to the consumer.
However, getting the mixture into a powder and in capsules with a strict control of the right amount of active ingredient was the last and most important part they would do for now.

This would certainly improve the shelf-life.
“We are still working on the appearance of the capsules to make them more appealing as well, we are not yet there,” Ramathebane said.
Are there any clinical trials planned for this medicine?
There is no suitable law in Lesotho supporting clinical trials besides the 1973 public health order.
The law is obsolete however.

It would be good to do clinical trials in other countries where there are relevant laws and preparations are underway.
Therefore the route to be taken is to follow the traditional product path.
“Even though clinical trials are long and expensive processes, getting a product registered as a pharmaceutical product is our dream however, medicine bill is still on the shelve to be passed as act of parliament, which after becoming an act will facilitate registration of this product once it has passed through the clinical trials,” she said.

However, two things are worth noting: “Plenty of studies in reputable academic journals have already been published about the efficacy of this plant in addressing a few ailments,” Ramathebane said.
Second, the medicines are already there in Lesotho’s markets, people are already consuming the medicines.
What is more important than making sure that the medicines are, at least, safe and, to some degree, do what they are claimed to do?
*Ingredients in the capsules are still confidential pending the final product.

Own Correspondent

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