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New WHO guidelines to promote proper use of alternative medicines

Adverse drug reactions to alternative medicines have more than doubled in three years


WHO guidelines on developing consumer information on proper use of traditional, complementary and alternative medicines

Summary of highlights

Policies governments could put in place

  • Make sure that sufficient information is provided to consumers on the efficacy and safety of products as well as contraindications
  • Set up the right channels for consumers to report adverse drug reactions and make those channels known
  • Organize communication campaigns to equip consumers with the ability to discern the quality of the service they receive
  • Ensure that practitioners are appropriately qualified and registered
  • Encourage interaction between traditional and conventional practitioners
  • Provide insurance for non-conventional therapies and products whose evidence base is sound.

Health system structures and processes that would help promote better quality and safety

  • Development of quality standards and treatment guidelines to ensure uniformity within a particular health system
  • Standardization of training and knowledge requirements for practitioners to promote the credibility of traditional or alternative practices and enhance consumer trust
  • Collaboration between conventional and traditional or complementary care providers to improve results of treatment but also promote health sector reform
  • Organization of traditional or alternative medicine practitioners to provide better structures for self-control mechanisms

Questions consumers should ask

  • Is the therapy suitable for his/her disease or condition?
  • Does the therapy have the potential to prevent, alleviate and/or cure symptoms or in other ways contribute to improved health and well-being for the consumer?
  • Is the therapy or herbal medicines provided by a qualified traditional medicine/ complementary and alternative medicine practitioner (TM/CAM) or health care practitioner with adequate training background, good skills and knowledge, preferably registered and certified?
  • Are the herbal medicinal products or materials of assured quality and what are the contraindications and precautions of the products or materials?
  • Are the therapies or herbal medicinal products available at a competitive price?

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For more information contact:

Ms Daniela Bagozzi
Telephone: +41 22 791 4544
Mobile phone: +41 79 4755490
E-mail: bagozzid@who.int