Herbal drugs to join list of approved medicines

Anjana Sankar
Filed on June 14, 2005

ABU DHABI Herbal and traditional medicines will soon find a place in the existing list of approved medicines maintained by the General Authority of Health Services (GAHS) for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

"We are in the process of preparing the list of herbal medicines which can be incorporated after assessing their quality, safety and efficacy," Dr Mohammed Abuelkhair, Drug Consultant Advisor at the Authority, told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the World Health Organisation's consultative meeting on Quality in Herbal Medicine. The meeting, attended by experts from countries worldwide, will discuss ways and means to integrate herbal medicine into the mainstream national healthcare system.

The three-day conference inaugurated yesterday at the Beach Rotana Hotel is being organised by the Zayed Complex for Herbal Research and Traditional Medicine in cooperation with GAHS.

"As part of our efforts to promote the use of herbal drugs, the Health Authority has taken a representative from the Zayed Complex in our Formulary Drug Committee to finalise the list of approved herbal medicines," Dr Abuelkhair said.

Underlining the extensive usage of herbal medicines worldwide, he said more and more people were turning to traditional medicines after realising their potential in treating and curing some diseases. "Some herbal medicines have been clinically proven as equivalent to chemical drugs in treating diabetes, asthma and depression. It is a promising development that the National Institute of Health in US is funding research on herbal medicine," said Dr Abuelkhair.

Elaborating on the problems in promoting and regulating the herbal market, the drug expert said that lack of clinical research in the field was the biggest hassle.

"Extensive clinical research is needed to formulate any regulatory norms for these medicines, which is not currently available," he added.

Toeing similar line, Dr Mazen Ali Naji, General Director of Zayed Complex for Herbal Research and Traditional Medicine told Khaleej Times that the variety of unknown mixtures that penetrate the market had undermined the quality and safety of herbal and traditional drugs.

"There are no standards of quality in the herbal market. Many times, these products enter the market as raw material with a single ingredient. And they become readily available in the supermarkets as food supplements without passing through any regulatory criteria," said Dr Mazen.

Dr. Xiaorui Zhang, Coordinator, Traditional Medicine Department of Technical Cooperation for Essential Drugs and Traditional Medicine, World Health Organisation, said that the consultative meeting will discuss and finalise the draft for Good Manufacturing Practice in Herbal Medicine to ensure quality, safety and efficacy of herbal medicines.

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