Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research (2004): Supplement 2:
2nd International Congress on Traditional Medicine and Materia Medica
Status of Traditional Medicine/Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the Eastern Mediterranean Region
Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences, Kuwait
The popularity and acceptance of Traditional/Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM) in the treatment of various ailments has persisted over the millennia. The formulations are so made as to minimize the untoward effects and enhance synergism, thereby increasing the efficacy of the preparation as a whole. The idea was perhaps based on the logic of humoral concept and study of temperaments and allied factors in the patient. The concept of constitution of human being is well recognized by the modern physician including the genetic variations and drug therapy. By focusing on the innate healing abilities of the human organism, TCAM represents a perspective that conventional medicine lost in the twentieth century in its enthusiasm for external, technological solutions to all health problems.
Obviously, therefore, there is a need for a systematic investigation on the TCAM situation world wide. Incidentally, up to now, no effective and accepted tool has been available to monitor the global use of TCAM, and particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) where the TCAM remains the major source of health care for majority of the population. It is already the people’s own health care system and is well accepted by them. It has certain advantages over imported systems of medicine in any setting because, as integral part of the people’s culture, it is particularly effective in solving certain cultural health problems. It is accessible and affordable in rural areas while the chemical drugs are not. In certain rural areas, the only available practioners are traditional healers as the conventional physicians are usually available in urban areas and big cities. It can and does freely contribute to scientific and universal medicine. Its recognition, promotion and development would serve due respect for people’s culture and heritage.
In the present work, an effort has been made to collect the secondary data on practices and utilization of TCAM in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) in order to asses the present status of TCAM in this region. To achieve this goal, the Ministers of Health of the countries of the Region were requested to furnish the relevant informations. While some countries responded, others did not. However, based on the informations received from the respondents and also from the literature review, the present report has been prepared which gives an overview of TCAM in the EMR. Perusal of the information/data reveals great variations between the countries of the region. These variations/aspects will be presented and discussed.
Although GDP, national health expenditure, physician: population ratio, and literacy rate are most important components of health, these are very low in some of the EMR countries. Yet, most of the countries are not taking due interest in the development and promotion of TCAM, which might contribute effectively to improve the health status of poverty stricken masses. Particularly because, the appropriate use TCAM of guaranteed quality and efficacy and safety in a cost-effective manner is a culturally accepted way of treating a range of diseases. Herbal Medicines are widely used in many countries of the EMR for treatment of variety of disorders and hence are of great importance as a mechanism to increase access to health care services. It is of particular importance in the rural areas where it is accessible and affordable, and the only available healers are traditional healers as the conventional healers are reluctant to work in these areas.
Overall, herbal medicines are culturally accepted and widely used in many countries of the EMR for treatment of variety of disorders and hence are of great importance as a mechanism to increase access to health care services. However, only few countries have some form of policy/mechanism on TCAM. Other countries need to develop their policy on TCAM to provide a sound basis in defining the role of TCAM in national health care delivery, ensuring that necessary regulatory and legal mechanisms are created for promoting and maintaining good practices, that access is equitable, affordable and that authenticity, safety and efficacy of therapies are ensured.