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Annual Report 2002 - Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy: Supporting Countries to Close the Access Gap
(2003; 20 pages) [French] [Spanish] View the PDF document
Table of Contents
View the documentDeveloping a monitoring culture to improve impact
View the documentTraditional and complementary medicine: putting policy into action
View the documentKey country support in Africa and Eastern Mediterranean
View the documentWHO Collaborating Centres: supplying active support for medicines work
View the documentHow is TRIPS affecting access to medicines?
View the documentDevelopment of the essential drugs concept over the past 25 years
View the documentMeasuring access to antimalarials
View the documentStrengthening regional and national bulk procurement
View the documentLearning from successful supply systems
View the documentWorking out the cost of medicines
View the documentSupporting MDG target on access to essential medicines
View the documentCommon guideline for evaluating new medicines in Baltic countries
View the documentNGO toolkit for improving access to HIV/AIDS treatment
View the documentHarmonizing medicines regulation in the Americas
View the documentGood manufacturing practice in China: rapid progress
View the documentPharmacovigilance: detecting and reporting adverse drug reactions
View the documentVariations in prescribing information in 26 countries
View the document10th ICDRA: an international basis for medicines regulation
View the documentFighting poor-quality drugs
View the documentImproving medicines use in hospitals in Cambodia and Lao PDR
View the documentWHO-India Essential Drugs Programme: multiplying impact
View the documentOman: improving antibiotic use in primary health care

Traditional and complementary medicine: putting policy into action

The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005 was launched at the World Health Assembly, receiving wide coverage in the international press. It aims to promote development of national traditional and complementary medicine (TM/CM) policies and programmes, improve the safety, efficacy and quality of TM/CM by expanding the knowledge base on TM/CM, and provide guidance on regulatory and quality assurance standards. Traditional Medicine in Asia (SEARO Regional Publication No. 39), published in 2002, complements the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy by exploring policy issues such as harmonization of traditional and modern medicine, the role of TM in national health care systems, cost-benefit analysis and training programmes.

In the African and Western Pacific Regions, regional TM strategies are already guiding Member States on regional TM issues. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, a WHO Regional Committee resolution was passed in 2002, calling on Member States to adopt the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005 as a framework for developing national TM programmes.

Tools for institutionalizing traditional medicine

In the African Region, several tools for institutionalizing TM were developed, including:

• guidelines for formulating a national master plan for developing TM
• a tool to help countries document the status of African TM
• guidelines for documenting ethnomedical evidence data
• guidelines for registering traditional medicines in the African Region, as part of an effort to accelerate the registration and circulation of standardized African traditional medicines within the African Region.

Regulating herbal medicines

The global WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy indicates that rapidly increasing use of herbal medicines throughout the world has made regulation of herbal medicines an urgent issue. A series of workshops - for Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe and South-East Asia - was therefore launched to help drug regulatory authorities develop the expertise required for regulating herbal medicines. The first workshop was held in Teheran in December, for Eastern Mediterranean countries. The aim is to familiarize national drug regulatory authorities with the principal policy, safety and quality control issues regarding regulation and registration of herbal products, including development and implementation of national regulations. The workshops will also work towards development of common regional requirements for registration of herbal medicines.

Even in China, the number of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) hospitals, beds and research institutions is soaring










Number of TCM hospitals









Number of beds in TCM hospitals




13 675

49 151

101 418

160 899

206 812

Number of TCM research institutions










Source: Traditional Medicine in Asia. New Delhi, WHO, 2002 (SEARO Regional Publication No. 39).

In the Western Pacific Region, such harmonization is in fact already under way. The first meeting of the Western Pacific Region Forum for the Harmonization of Herbal Medicine was held in March 2002. It drew up a work plan to deal with: harmonization of nomenclature for herbal medicines; harmonization of methods and guidelines for the registration and regulation of herbal medicines; harmonization of agricultural and field collection practice procedures; and communication of information on herbal medicine regulation.

In 2002 WHO supported a range of countries on numerous traditional medicine (TM) issues

China: to set up a computerized database on endangered medicinal plants in China; to establish a clinical research centre in the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine; to assess the role of Chinese medicines and its use within a market economy and reformed health service system; to prepare guidelines on safe use of Chinese herbal medicines.

Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe: to evaluate medicines for treating HIV/AIDS.

China and Korea: to collect and analyse data on effectiveness of acupuncture through review of existing literature in Chinese and Korean.

China, Mongolia and Viet Nam: to organize training courses on use of TM for treatment of selected diseases.

Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria: to review results of clinical trials for antimalarial herbal medicines.

Guinea, Philippines, Sao Tome and Principe, Tanzania, Uganda and Viet Nam: to develop national policies/masterplans and programmes for TM.

Papua New Guinea: to collect local information on use of medicinal plants.

Philippines: to develop a curriculum on traditional and alternative health care for seven health science disciplines.

Uganda: to develop a national code of ethics for traditional health practitioners.

Viet Nam: to advise on methodology of clinical research, and development of TM curricula in universities; to assess quality control of herbal medicines and standardization of plant materials; to organize a training course and lectures on quality control of herbal medicines.


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