Evaluation of content and cost of traditional eye medication in a resource-poor country – Implications for eye care practice and policy
Background: Cataract, glaucoma, and conjunctivitis are common causes of ocular morbidity in Nigeria. A major obstacle in reducing the burden of ocular morbidity in rural areas is access to eye care services. Up to 80% of the population in developing countries use traditional medications for their primary healthcare needs because they are accessible, available, and affordable. The aim of this study is to evaluate the content and cost of commercialized traditional medications used in the treatment of common eye conditions in Nigeria.
Patients and Methods: All the registered traditional healers (THs) at an International Trade Fair in Enugu who treated eye problems were identified. Data on their location and scope of their practice were collected by the researchers. Proxy patients consulted THs in the trade fair with simulated cataract, glaucoma, and bacterial conjunctivitis, and treatment was sought. Medication for the treatment of the simulated disorders was paid for and procured. The mode of administration and the cost of the drugs were recorded by proxy patients. Each medication was labeled with a code and sent to the laboratories of the National Agency for Drug Administration and Control for analysis. Data were entered into a database on Microsoft Access and transferred to STATA V12.1 (StataCorp) for analysis.
Results: Cataract was treated by 87.5% of all the traditional eye healers interviewed. A total of 32 samples were collected and analyzed. These comprised mainly oral (53.1%) and topical traditional medications (43.8%). The pH of the topical samples ranged from 3.5 to 10, while the mean microbiological load per topical solution was 3.3 × 104 cfu/mL ± 0.96. The cost of treatment of cataract ranged from 4 to 70 USD.
Conclusion: The content of the majority of the samples of traditional eye medications in this study had high extremes of pH and/or had a high microbial content. The practice of THs should be regulated.
Keywords: Content, cost, Nigeria, traditional eye medication