Dr A. Majid Cheraghali, Islamic Republic of Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran has a long and rich history of the use of traditional medicine, the most widely used type being herbal medicine. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Ministry of Health (MOH) are strongly committed to promoting the use of traditional medicine in the health sector. Several departments in the MOH and in the Ministry of Agriculture are jointly involved in implementing Good Agricultural Practices for herbal medicines.
The National Herbal Medicine Expert Committee has been established under the Pharmaceutical Department of the MOH, and comprises representatives from the national regulatory authorities and university experts. The Committee is responsible for designing a national policy on herbal medicines, preparing guidelines for their use, and evaluating herbal drugs dossiers. Under the Secretary of Food and Drugs in the MOH, the Food and Drug Control Laboratory is responsible for the quality control of food products and pharmaceuticals, including herbal products. The Government of Iran also focuses on the education of students of pharmacy and medicine in the use of traditional and herbal medicines.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, there are more than 100 registered herbal medicines, which are locally produced, and several hundred non-registered, but regulated, herbal medicines on the market. Importation of herbal medicines is not allowed at present. There are 32 producers of herbal medicine, mainly of oral and topical dosage forms. There is no herbal medicine for injection on the market. Although the sale of herbal medicine is growing sharply, at present its share in the drug market is less than 5%.
In November 2001, the regulatory authorities of Member States of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region met in Cairo to discuss various topics, including herbal medicines. Traditional medicines are widely used in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. While most of the countries in the region do not have any law on herbal medicines, they do have regulations on quality control of herbal medicines. Some countries, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen, have monographs for herbal medicines. Regulatory authorities in the Region are generally more concerned about the safety of herbal medicines than about their efficacy. There is a great need for training of national authority experts in controlling the producers of herbal medicines. Regional priorities in the area of herbal medicines include training of health professionals, public education, exchange of information and expertise, training of national experts on registration of herbal medicine and Good Manufacturing Practices, availability of references for herbal medicine in national languages, and an effective strategy to protect natural resources.