Since traditional, complementary and alternative medicines remain largely unregulated, consumers worldwide need to be informed and given the tools to access appropriate, safe and effective treatment. To help address this issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) today releases a new set of guidelines for national health authorities to develop context specific and reliable information for consumer use of alternative medicines.
Up to 80% of developing country populations rely on traditional medicine for their primary health care, due to cultural tradition or lack of alternatives. In wealthy countries, many people seek out various types of natural remedies on the assumption that natural means safe.
“WHO supports traditional and alternative medicines when these have demonstrated benefits for the patient and minimal risks,” said Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of WHO. “But as more people use these medicines, governments should have the tools to ensure all stakeholders have the best information about their benefits and their risks.”
Accessible, easy to understand information is key to guiding consumers in their choices. The guidelines provide simple, easy to follow tips on issues to look out for and a brief checklist of basic questions which may be used to help facilitate proper use of traditional and alternative medicine.
Advice is provided to government authorities on preparing easy-to-access information and on working with the mass media to sensitize and educate the population. In addition, suggestions are given for several health system structures and processes needed to promote proper use of traditional and alternative medicines.