Traditional medicine and Islamic medicine are practised in Iran through hokama who have small shops where they not only recommend medicines, but also prepare and sell them. With the expansion of allopathic medicine and services, however, the number of hokama has diminished greatly.
The Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences (163) has done a lot of research on medicinal plants. It has also organized an international congress on traditional medicine and materia medica. Most of the research done on medicinal plants has been pre-clinical. In Iran, there is no specific hospital for conducting clinical trials of herbal medicines (163).
Over the last 10 years, the Government has undertaken an inventory of medicinal plants (163). So far, 2500 flora of Iran's 8000 medicinal plants have been inventoried and recorded in 20 volumes of 125 herbs each. One hundred fifty certificates for herbal medicine have been issued. Eighty-four herbal products have undergone clinical trials and been licensed. These are included in Iran's list of essential drugs. By the end of 2004, the Government intends to have issued licences for 300 herbal products (163).
Seven faculties of pharmacy are conducting research on medicinal plants in seven provinces (163). There are 30 pharmaceutical companies producing herbal medicines, 20 of which produce herbal products and 10 produce herbal preparations (163). There are also many small herbal shops that supply herbal materials and spices for medicinal use (163).
There are 14 chiropractors practising in Iran (45).
Traditional medicine practitioners are neither supported nor banned by the Government, provided patients are not harmed (162). A chiropractic law is pending. Currently, chiropractors may practice in conjunction with allopathic physicians.
The Government of Iran is very interested in traditional medicines and has initiated a number of programmes related to them. Since 1991, the Food and Drug Control Agency has been working in the field of herbal medicines.
In 1991, the National Academy of Traditional Medicine in Iran and Islam (163) was established. It is mandated to support research on herbal medicines; to study the history of Iranian traditional medicine; to preserve Iranian traditional medicine; to investigate education in traditional medicine and recommend an education plan to the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, including the incorporation of traditional medicine training and research into allopathic medical programmes; to educate the public on the rational use of traditional medicine; and to republish famous Iranian books on traditional medicine. In 2001, the Academy recommended that the Ministry of Health and Medical Education officially begin training allopathic medical students in Iranian traditional medicine.
In 1996, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education established the Council Committee of Medicinal Herbs and Products (163). The Committee consists of a panel of experts charged with evaluating the safety and efficacy of herbs and herbal products and issuing rules and regulations for the packaging of herbal medicines.
In order to make allopathic drugs affordable, the Government subsidizes the pharmaceutical industry's importation of raw materials. As the Government does not subsidize herbal products or locally produced herbal raw materials, herbal products are often more expensive than generic drugs.
There is no national patent office and no national patent law in Iran. In 2000, a draft patent law was submitted to the Parliament, but it has not yet been approved (163).
Education and training
All pharmacy students must study pharmacognosy. In the Universities of Tehran and Isfahan, pharmacy students are required to write a thesis on research related to a medicinal plant (163).
The Government health insurance covers 90% of the Iranian population, but only a few registered herbal products are covered by the insurance (163).