Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New WHO Guidelines To Promote Proper Use Of Alternative Medicines

Date:
June 24, 2004
Source:
World Health Organization
Summary:
Since traditional, complementary and alternative medicines remain largely unregulated, consumers worldwide need to be informed and given the tools to access appropriate, safe and effective treatment. To help address this issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) today releases a new set of guidelines for national health authorities to develop context specific and reliable information for consumer use of alternative medicines.

GENEVA (22 JUNE 2004) -- Since traditional, complementary and alternative medicines remain largely unregulated, consumers worldwide need to be informed and given the tools to access appropriate, safe and effective treatment. To help address this issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) today releases a new set of guidelines for national health authorities to develop context specific and reliable information for consumer use of alternative medicines.

Up to 80% of developing country populations rely on traditional medicine for their primary health care, due to cultural tradition or lack of alternatives. In wealthy countries, many people seek out various types of natural remedies on the assumption that natural means safe.

Summary highlights of WHO guidelines

However, as the use of traditional or alternative medicines increases, so do reports of adverse reactions. In China, a country where traditional therapies and products are widely used in parallel with conventional medicine, there were 9 854 known reported cases of adverse drug reactions in 2002 alone, up from 4 000 between 1990 and 1999.

Many traditional/alternative medicine products are sold over the counter. In a WHO survey of 142 countries, 99 responded that most of these products could be bought without prescription. In 39 countries, many traditional remedies were used for self-medication, bought or prepared by friends, acquaintances or the patient. These trends raise concerns over the quality of the products used, their therapeutic appropriateness for a given condition, and the lack of medical follow-up.

“WHO supports traditional and alternative medicines when these have demonstrated benefits for the patient and minimal risks,” said Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of WHO. “But as more people use these medicines, governments should have the tools to ensure all stakeholders have the best information about their benefits and their risks."

Accessible, easy to understand information is key to guiding consumers in their choices. The guidelines provide simple, easy to follow tips on issues to look out for and a brief checklist of basic questions which may be used to help facilitate proper use of traditional and alternative medicine.

Advice is provided to government authorities on preparing easy-to-access information and on working with the mass media to sensitize and educate the population. In addition, suggestions are given for several health system structures and processes needed to promote proper use of traditional and alternative medicines.

While the guidelines cannot compensate for poor products or inappropriate practices, they can help governments educate consumers on how to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of traditional medicines.

Alternative therapies - documented benefits and risks

Empirical and scientific evidence exists to support the benefits of acupuncture, manual therapies and several medicinal plants for chronic or mild conditions. For instance, the effectiveness of acupuncture, a popular treatment for relieving pain, has been demonstrated both through numerous clinical trials and laboratory experiments. As a result, 90% of pain clinics in the United Kingdom and 70% in Germany include acupuncture as a form of treatment. Equally, some medicinal plants have shown efficacy for life-threatening conditions; medicine combinations containing the Chinese herb Artemisia annua are now considered amongst the most effective remedies against malaria.

However, there have been many cases of consumers unknowingly using suspect or counterfeit products; choosing inappropriate therapies in self-care; as well as several reports of unintentional overdose.

Similarly, there have been reports of consumers being injured by unqualified practitioners. For example, a study performed by the National Research Institute on Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Norway reported cases of pneumothorax caused by unqualified acupuncturists. In addition, there have been reports of paralysis caused by unqualified manual therapists.

Another potential risk is that patients do not inform their doctors about their use of traditional and complementary medicines. For instance, Ginkgo biloba is a popularly used herbal medicine worldwide whose main function is to prevent vascular disease and to increase blood circulation. The WHO Uppsala Monitoring Centre reported some cases of excess bleeding during a surgical operation. If the patient had informed the doctor about the use of the medicine this could have been avoided.

The development of the guidelines was carried out with the financial and technical support of the Regional Government of Lombardy, in collaboration with the State University of Milan. The guidelines are based on evidence and experiences collected from 102 countries representing all WHO regions.

RELATED LINKS

- WHO Guidelines: Developing Information on Proper Use of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine [pdf 3.1Mb] (http://www.who.int/medicines/library/trm/Consumer.pdf)

- Traditional medicine (http://www.who.int/health_topics/traditional_medicine/en)

- Medicinal plants (http://www.who.int/health_topics/plants_medicinal/en)


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by World Health Organization. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

World Health Organization. "New WHO Guidelines To Promote Proper Use Of Alternative Medicines." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040623105356.htm>.
World Health Organization. (2004, June 24). New WHO Guidelines To Promote Proper Use Of Alternative Medicines. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040623105356.htm
World Health Organization. "New WHO Guidelines To Promote Proper Use Of Alternative Medicines." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040623105356.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins