News / Health

WHO Pursuing Update on Global Strategy for Traditional Medicine

A patient suffering from facial paralysis undergoes acupuncture treatment at a traditional Chinese medical hospital in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, July 11, 2012.A patient suffering from facial paralysis undergoes acupuncture treatment at a traditional Chinese medical hospital in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, July 11, 2012.
x
A patient suffering from facial paralysis undergoes acupuncture treatment at a traditional Chinese medical hospital in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, July 11, 2012.
A patient suffering from facial paralysis undergoes acupuncture treatment at a traditional Chinese medical hospital in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, July 11, 2012.
Ivan Broadhead
The origins of traditional medicine in Asia, Africa and the Americas can be traced back thousands of years.  A successful history of traditional disease prevention and treatment has been viewed with skepticism by contemporary scientists. But such views seem to be changing.
 
The World Health Organization is meeting in Hong Kong as preparations continue to update a global strategy for traditional medicine first outlined in 2001. 
 
One fifth of the world’s population is believed to rely on traditional healthcare.  According to WHO figures, 119 countries have developed regulatory frameworks for traditional medicine - or TM. 
 
Dr. Zhang Qi is coordinator of the Geneva-based agency's traditional and complementary medicine unit. 
 
“This shows we should recognize the existence and harness the potential of TM [traditional medicine] to contribute to healthcare.  We also [need to] ensure the safety, quality and effectiveness of TM for the public," he said. 
 
While contemporary clinical science has tended to be skeptical about traditional medicine, the reality, says Professor Rudolf Bauer, is that more than one-third of so-called “modern” medicines are still derived from plants.  Another third are modeled on plant structures. 
 
“The future goal could be some kind of integrated medicine using both traditional and Western medicine to select the best [treatments] for patients," he said. 
 
The head of the University of Graz Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Bauer says modern medicine appears to be adopting successful methodologies from its older counterpart. 
 
“TM is not usually one drug for millions of people, but individual mixtures of different herbs to best treat single patients.  This concept of personalized medicine is a very hot topic in Western medicine, especially in cancer treatment.  We realized we need more individualized therapies - and this has been the case in TM for hundreds, even thousands of years," he said. 
 
Most experts agree the adoption of traditional medicine is going to rise.  Yale University Professor of Pharmacology Dr. Yung-chi Cheng is at the vanguard of modern medical research, inventing widely-used therapies for diseases including cancer, hepatitis, and HIV. 
 
In 1999, Cheng began exploring the overlap between traditional and contemporary medicine.  Recently he and his colleagues licensed a compound - PHY906 - to improve treatment outcomes and help relieve the pain of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.  
 
“This formula consists of four herbs using exactly the same composition described 1,800 years ago in a classic Chinese medicine book.  I call this ‘poly-chemical medicine’ because it has multiple chemicals.  Today you and I use single-chemical medicines.  This paradigm will evolve to become the cornerstone of future medicine," he said. 
 
The future looks healthy for traditional medicine, although investment will be required.
 
In Hong Kong, where the WHO meeting is taking place, 30 percent of the population already uses traditional treatments. 
 
While the Health Department was not prepared to speak to VOA, the new government of the semi-autonomous Chinese city has reiterated its commitment to make traditional medicine one of “six emerging pillar industries.” 
 
As representative for 300 traditional medicine producers of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association, Joseph Lau is not persuaded.  He notes the government does not even keep import and export data for the industry. 
 
“I think the government is not doing enough to promote traditional medicine.  Over the years they have passed several laws to regulate production.  As a manufacturer, it makes our life a lot harder.  But this is a necessary step we have to go through," he said. 
 
The China Daily newspaper observed in September that more investment is required for Hong Kong to emerge as a regional TM hub and challenge the Japanese and Korean manufacturers that control 90 percent of the market.  
 
While regulatory frameworks are expanding and improving, concerns about TM quality persist.  This year, European authorities have issued several warnings on potential contamination of traditional medicines from Hong Kong and China. 
 
Nonetheless, from a clinical perspective, the testing of new medicines is becoming increasingly rigorous and the credibility of traditional medicine increasingly robust, observes Dr. Cheng.  
 
“I am a mainstream scientist.  I know what the concerns are.  Many people take a rejectionist approach to TM.  But nowadays evidence and hard science are coming along - many people are starting to consider the possibilities, and I think the mood is changing," he said. 
 
As the modernization of ancient healthcare practices continues, the World Health Organization expects to implement its forthcoming 10-year global strategy for traditional medicine by 2014. 

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid