On 13th December 2022, the Herbal Research Group of Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) held the 9th Herbal Research Webinar Series 2022 virtually via Zoom. Professor Zaheer-Ud-Din Babar, a professor in Medicines and Healthcare and the director of Centre of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice Research at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom, presented a very insightful lecture on “Pharmacovigilance and Herbal Medicines.” The event was attended by a total of 30 participants including staff, students, and alumni from different faculties and departments of UBD, UNISSA, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia as well as the Department of Pharmaceutical Services, Ministry of Health, Brunei Darussalam.
Prof. Zaheer began his presentation by discussing the complexities and challenges in monitoring traditional medicine as the existing systems were developed for synthetic medicines that require modification to cater to the specific differences of medicinal herbs and the perception that natural or herbal products are safe may add to the difficulties. He then explored the issues with the reporting of herbal medicine using a study conducted by Alostad and colleagues in which they concluded that there was diversity in the classification of herbal medicines across the studied countries. Prof. Zaheer pointed out that this may be due to the lack of standardization in pharmacovigilance practices worldwide and called for developing an internationally harmonized classification system for traditional and herbal medicines. He then touched on the increased use of herbal medicines and the authorization of many herbal remedies including COVID Organics (CVO) in Madagascar to treat COVID-19 despite little is known about the toxicity level of these plants and further work is still being required.
Prof. Zaheer then compiled an evidence-based synthesis and a review of literature concerning the pharmacovigilance of herbal medicines in different countries including Africa, India, Korea, Thailand, EU, and Malaysia which all emphasized the need to establish a pharmacovigilance system specific to herbal medicine as adverse drug reactions such as skin, appendages, liver, and biliary system disorders had been observed and reported. Interestingly, a study on pharmacists’ knowledge, practice, and attitudes toward pharmacovigilance in Poland found that 28% (n = 146) of respondents were certain of the safety of drugs of natural origin and 16% (n = 86) believed that adverse reactions following administration of such drugs should not be reported at all, thus, highlighting the importance of increasing awareness of the need of pharmacovigilance practices.
To conclude the webinar, a brief group photo session was conducted with invited speakers, organisers and participants followed by a question-and-answer session between participants and Professor Zaheer.
For the video recording of the 9th Herbal Research Webinar Series 2022, please see below: