Research focuses on traditional antimalarials
With modern pharmaceuticalsoften unavailable and unaffordable in the areas most affected by malaria, and drug resistance increasing, the use of herbal antimalarials is very common. But there has been almost no research into their clinical effectiveness.
Developing a strategy for more evidence-based use of traditional medicines against malaria, has led WHO’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Medicine to team up with the UK’s Global Initiative for Traditional Systems of Health. They have formed a Research Initiative on Traditional Antimalarials, and in November 1999 the two groups co-sponsored a meeting in Moshi, Tanzania, to move the process forward.
Delegates included biological and social scientists, doctors, traditional healers and policy-makers from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. They developed four specialist groups to implement a research strategy which will contribute to malaria control programmes. The topics covered by the groups are: policy, advocacy and funding; pre-clinical studies; clinical development; and repellance and vector control.
Future plans include updating the Research Initiative’s database of traditional treatments for malaria, and regulatory guidelines for traditional medicines and natural products, case studies of their use, clinical efficacy, safety, screening and clinical evaluation.
Source: TDR News, June 2000.
Research into herbal antimalarials aims to improve the plight of sufferers, such as this patient in Congo
India: protecting its heritage of medicinal plants
The Indian Government is setting up a programme to protect and promote its rich tradition in herbal medicines. One of the main aims is to prepare standardised formulations of traditional medicines that will undergo the same regulatory procedures, including clinical trials, as modern pharmaceuticals.
A new Department for Indian Systems of Medicines and Homeopathy has been set up and a Biodiversity Bill is going through Parliament. This will establish a National Biodiversity Board to oversee access to and use of medicinal plants, as well as applying for patents when appropriate.
A pilot project will begin in the Western Ghats region, where experts will study and document medicinal plants. A small formulations unit will process plants into medicines, which will then undergo clinical trials to international standards. This work will form part of a digital database of India’s traditional knowledge, which will be included in the World Intellectual Property Organization’s patent classification system, and made available to patent offices world wide. The Government hopes the move will help to prevent patents being granted on traditional Indian plants and remedies.
The pilot programme will be run by a non profit NGO assisted by an advisory panel of international experts, and it is hoped that other international organizations will become involved.
Drawing on local knowledge
One of the programme’s key elements is the involvement of local people, who will be employed to identify, document and cultivate the plants, and participate in running the formulations unit and therapeutic centre. There are plans to involve local schools, and to set up a home for the elderly who will be encouraged to pass on their knowledge of local plants and their uses.
Crushing and storing medicinal plants at a processing plant in Kanzicode, India
Source: Scrip No.2547, 9 June 2000.