WHO Releases New Guidelines to Promote Proper Use of Alternative MedicinesWHO Releases New Guidelines to Promote Proper Use of Alternative Medicines
June 23, 2004
GENEVA--The World Health Organization (WHO) released today a new set of guidelines for national health authorities to help promote the proper use of alternative medicines by consumers. The guidelines were developed in response to the dramatic increase in adverse reactions, which, according to WHO (www.who.int), have more than doubled in three years.
The new guidelines provide practitioners easy-to-follow tips on issues to watch out for and a brief checklist of basic questions to use which may help facilitate the proper use of traditional and alternative medicines, helping consumers maximize benefits and minimize risks. 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. WHO warns, however, that the new guidelines cannot compensate for poor products or inappropriate practices.
Possible consumer risks associated with improper use of alternative medicines include use of suspect or counterfeit products, selection of inappropriate therapies when self-medicating, unintentional overdosing, unintentional injury by unqualified practitioners, and failure to inform physicians about the use of traditional and complementary medicines. According to WHO, the new guidelines can help minimize such risks by doing the following:
*providing policies governments could put in place;
*ensuring consumers are provided with sufficient information on the efficacy, safety and contraindications of products;
*establishing the appropriate channels for consumers to report adverse drug reactions, and making those channels known;
*organizing communication campaigns to equip consumers with the ability to discern the quality of service they receive;
*ensuring practitioners are appropriately qualified and registered;
*encouraging interaction between traditional and conventional practitioners; and
*providing insurance for non-conventional therapies and products with sound bases of evidence.
The guidelines also suggest possible health system structures and processes with potential to promote better quality of alternative medicines and safety of their use, including:
*development of quality standards and treatment guidelines to ensure uniformity within a particular health system;
*standardization of training and knowledge requirements for practitioners to promote credibility of traditional or alternative practices and enhance consumer trust;
*collaboration between conventional and traditional or complementary care providers to improve results of treatment and promote health sector reform; and
*organization of traditional or alternative medicine practitioners to provide better structures for self-control mechanisms.
The WHO guidelines were developed with data collected from 102 countries representing all WHO regions.
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