WHO supports scientifically proven traditional medicine

In this file photo taken on March 11, 2020 World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO heardquaters in Geneva. Picture: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Caution must be taken against misinformation, especially on social media, about the effectiveness of certain remedies.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that traditional, complementary and alternative medicine has many benefits and Africa has a long history of traditional medicine and practitioners who play an important role in providing care to populations.”

This statement was made in response to questions from Africa about the use of traditional medicine in the treatment of Covid-19, during the WHO press conference on May 4.

Dr Michael Ryan said that the organisation supports the use of traditional treatments as long as they include active pharmaceutical ingredients that can help fight Covid-19 after medical trials.

“We have seen traditional medicines become world recognised once they have gone through all the necessary medical trials,” Ryan said.

The WHO also issued a statement following the press conference stating that medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua are being considered as possible treatments for Covid-19 and should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects.

“Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world.

“Even if therapies are derived from traditional practices and natural medicine, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical,” the statement said.

The organisation said that African governments through their health ministers adopted a resolution urging member states to produce evidence on the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicine at the 50th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in 2000.

“Countries also agreed to undertake relevant research and require national medicines regulatory agencies to approve medicines in line with international standards, which includes the products following strict research protocols and undergoing tests and clinical trials.

“These studies normally involve hundreds of people under the monitoring of the national regulatory authorities and may take quite a few months in an expedited process,” the statement said.

The organisation is working with research institutions to select traditional medicine products which can be investigated for clinical efficacy and safety for Covid-19 treatment.

It also stated its support to countries that explore the role of traditional health practitioners in prevention, control, and early detection of the virus, as well as case referral to health facilities.

“The WHO has supported clinical trials, leading 14 countries to issue marketing authorisation for 89 traditional medicine products which have met international and national requirements for registration.

“Of these, 43 have been included in national essential medicines lists.

“These products are now part of the arsenal to treat patients with a wide range of diseases including malaria, opportunistic infections related to HIV, diabetes, sickle cell disease and hypertension,” the statement said.

“Almost all countries in the WHO African region have national traditional medicine policies, following support from the WHO.

“As efforts are under way to find treatment for Covid-19 caution must be taken against misinformation, especially on social media, about the effectiveness of certain remedies.

“Many plants and substances are being proposed without the minimum requirements and evidence of quality, safety and efficacy.

“The use of products to treat Covid-19, which have not been robustly investigated can put people in danger, giving a false sense of security and distracting them from hand washing and physical distancing.”

Originally appeared on Bedfordview Edenvale News

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