Determination of safety of unlicensed herbal preparations used in the management of cancer
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Cancer has become a primary cause of concern in the health care system of Uganda. The cancer burden is especially substantial due to lack of appropriate diagnosis, poor access to care, limitations in technical workforce and infrastructure. The low-income population of Uganda finds it difficult to access quality health care services and therefore resort to herbal preparations to relieve the symptoms and as complementary to the conventional cancer treatments provided by hospitals. As the interest in herbal/ traditional medicine increases, questions are raised on the quality and safety of these drugs that have infiltrated the market. East Africa is characterized by weak legislation and minimal research especially in the traditional medicine sector. This study focused on investigating the safety of 2 such herbal preparations that are marketed to cure cancer. These products have a relatively large consumer base and ingredients used in their preparation are not stated as well as any other information involved in the making. Phytochemical screening using standard methods was carried out to determine the phytochemical constituents in the herbal preparations that were tested. The sub acute toxicity included observation of the general conditions of the test animals, changes in body and organ weight, food and water consumption. Histopathology of the organs from the test animals and blood biochemistry were also studied.The data during the study period was analyzed using graph pad prism and presented as mean, SD for body weight, food and water consumption, organ weight and biochemistry. One way anova was then carried out to compare weight variation, relative and absolute organ weight, food and water consumption. One of the herbal preparations indicated both functional and structural dosage related liver toxicity as well as renal toxicity observed through the histopathology and blood chemistry results. The second test herbal preparation indicated no signs of toxicity.