THANK YOU MR CHAIRMAN AND DISTINGUISHED DELEGATES,
Traditional medicine, including herbal medicine, is a very important area that may need to be more exploited in future. The Western Pacific Region has established a lead in the theory and practice of herbal medicine and we intend to consolidate it. For example, only two days ago in the Philippines, the President signed the alternative medicine act, “R.A. 8423 - an act creating the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care to accelerate the development of traditional and alternative health care in the Philippines, providing for a traditional and alternative health care development fund and for other purposes”. This working group is a good example of how seriously traditional medicine is taken in the Region. In fact, I think this was one of the liveliest and most productive meetings we have ever held in the Regional Office, and I congratulate you for that.
Although I can assure you that we shall continue to pay serious attention to traditional medicine, I do not think we should attempt to cover all aspects. I would like to focus our efforts on two areas: medicinal plants or herbal medicine and acupuncture. We have already been very active in these two areas. For example, I have just signed the preface of Medicinal plants in the Republic of Korea, which will be published next year. This is the fourth in a series of books. Medicinal plants in China and Medicinal plants in Viet Nam have already been published and Medicinal plants in the South Pacific is being printed.
During your discussions you have discussed policy development with regard to herbal medicine. You have drawn up some draft guidelines for Member States which I think are excellent, as good if not better than those governing pharmaceutical management in Western medicine. Of course these are guidelines and it is up to governments whether they adopt or adapt them, according to their needs. For example, I am a little concerned that some countries may not be able to implement GMP, good manufacturing practice, in herbal medicine when they already have problems implementing GMP with regard to Western medicine. Nevertheless, I think the guidelines are very important because they enable Member States to see what can be done at the national level. Here at WHO we shall do our best to implement those parts of the guidelines that relate to the work of WHO.
Please allow me to make some specific points about the guidelines. First of all, let me assure you that they will be widely disseminated and that we shall be promoting their use. Second, using these guidelines I shall try to ensure that all countries will be able to develop their own national policies and programmes in the field of herbal medicine. Third, I would like to emphasize the importance of the networking aspect, in particular making use of collaborating centres within and outside the Region. This is in conformity with one of the 47 recommendations made to the Executive Board with regard to reforming the work of WHO. This recommendation advocated that greater use be made of WHO collaborating centres. Fourth, the issue of endangered species was mentioned frequently in your discussions. I think we have to preserve as many species of plants as possible. Fifth, we need better databases, they should be expanded and the information they contain analysed closely. In particular, databases should record not only the beneficial effects and availability of herbal medicinal plants but also the toxicity and adverse effects of certain herbal medicines.
With regard to following-up this meeting, I would like to suggest that the next meeting on this subject be held in about three years. We have to give Member States time to implement the recommendations. If we are to have a meeting annually, we shall simply repeat what was said at this meeting.
In closing, let me thank you Mr Chairman and also the Vice-Chairman and two rapporteurs who must have worked very hard to write these excellent guidelines. I would like to thank the temporary advisers and others who have also guided or helped guide the meeting, especially Professor Il-Moo Chang and Mr Alan Bensoussan.
With these few words, I would like to wish you a pleasant journey back home. I am sure we shall meet again sometime in the future. Thank you very much.