In 1989, the Ministry of Health's Zayed Centre for Herbal Research and Traditional Medicine was established in Abu Dhabi to conduct research on medicinal plants and traditional medicine practitioners. Similar research is conducted by the Desert Section of the Desert Marine Environment Research Centre, the Department of Pharmacology at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Al-Ain, the Society of National Culture, and the History and Culture Centre.
There is high consumer demand for herbal preparations and herbal products in the United Arab Emirates.
Section 1 of Federal Law 7 of 1975 (169) put in place licensing and registration requirements for the practice of medicine. Only an allopathic physician who holds a medical degree may apply for a licence to practise medicine. Under Section 2, non-citizens who seek to practise as general practitioners must complete an additional two years of post-internship medical practice.
In the United Arab Emirates, birth attendants are designated as medical professionals by Federal Law 5/1984 (170), the practice of which is open to physicians, pharmacists, and other licensed individuals. By Section 3, the Minister of Health is to publish licensing qualifications and outline the powers and duties of licensees.
In order to provide a legal framework to ensure that their benefits could be enjoyed without unnecessary risks, registration criteria (171) for herbal medicines were published in January 1998. These criteria were established by a committee of allopathic physicians and personnel from the Zayed Centre and Emirates University. The registration criteria include the following:
• documentation, including detailed monographs, for the herb;
• reference sample of the active ingredient of the herb;
• laboratory analysis for identity, purity, and quantity.
Priority in registration is given to single-ingredient products. Products containing more than one herb must have a logical justification for the combination based on the uses of the finished product. Therapeutic claims beyond traditional uses are not accepted unless scientifically justified.
As of April 1999 (171), 27 applications had been received. Seven of the applications were completed and approved, seven had completed the laboratory screening process, and 13 were waiting for laboratory analysis. These 27 applications had come from companies located in a number of countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, India, Indonesia, and China.
A 1999 report (171) outlined several problems with the criteria. Companies had difficulty fulfilling the documentary requirements, especially relating to stability data, and many companies wanted to register traditional products with more than 10 active ingredients, such as ayurvedic medicines. Analysis of the active ingredients in the final products proved technically difficult because of both qualitative and quantitative interference in the assays. Enforcing the law has also posed challenges.