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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid