Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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January 17, 2005

South African Minister: No Restrictive Controls For Natural Medicines

Like much of the rest of the world (Canada) (U.S.A.) (ANZO) (Europe) South Africa has a legislative proposal, inspired by pharmaceutical interests, to "ensure the safety of natural remedies" including herbs and nutritional supplements, proposing to subject them to the extensive testing routines normally applied only to allopathic - pharmaceutically produced - medicines.

In what may be a harbinger of international reversal of position, South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said at a recent international conference on natural products and molecular therapy at the University of Cape Town Medical School, that the proposal "is likely to be changed." Mrs. Tshabalala-Msimang urged delegates to expose "the false dichotomy that had arisen between natural and allopathic medicine", adding that "this is a division fostered by the need to make money from patented drugs through discrediting the use of natural products."

It is not the first time South Africa takes a position in opposition to "conventional wisdom" in health matters. In June last year, South Africa argued in Codex Alimentarius discussions on food labelling, that health information about foods must be made available to consumers, a position unfortunately not shared by many of the other delegations.

Also in Codex discussions about guidelines for food supplements, South Africa was the only country to stand up and denounce the generally negative tone of the proposed guidelines, arguing that "[b]ecause foods contain many substances that promote health and prevent chronic diseases, people should therefore be encouraged to select a healthy diet and supplement this diet with those nutrients for which the intake from the diet is insufficient to meet the requirements necessary for the prevention of chronic diseases and/or for the promotion of health beyond the demands of preventing micronutrient deficiencies." Again, the proposal did not pass.

AIDS - one of the great health challenges for the African continent - has perhaps been a catalyst in this change of direction. An earlier program involved trials on AIDS patients, treating them with traditional medicine and nutrition instead of toxic anti-retrovirals, apparently with "promising results".

Here is the report from The Mercury, 'The Quality Paper', in South Africa:

- - -

Natural cures to get the all-clear

Minister to scrap testing law

January 17, 2005

By Jo-Anne Smetherham

(The Mercury)

Cape Town: Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang says draft legislation that alternative practitioners believe could cripple complementary medicine in the country is likely to be changed.

This would mean that African traditional medicines, homeopathic remedies, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines and others would not have to go through the rigorous testing that the practitioners believed would sound the death knell for their industry.

Tshabalala-Msimang said in a statement that her department "would like to avoid the pitfall of putting such products in the same regulatory environment as pharmaceutical drugs, whose testing and control is very different".

The statement followed the health minister's speech at an international conference on natural products and molecular therapy at the University of Cape Town Medical School. The draft regulations state that alternative medicines should be regulated in the same way as patented conventional drugs.


If this draft were passed into law, alternative medicines would have to undergo trials designed for Western medicines and a pharmacist would have had to oversee their manufacture.

Experts say complementary medicine cannot afford expensive, large-scale trials because alternative medicines are not patented.

"It's fantastic news. If what the minister is saying comes to pass, it would be of benefit to everyone in South Africa," said Janet Welham, Co-chairman of the Complementary and Traditional Medicine Stakeholder Committee, which has been in negotiations with the Health Department and Precious Matsosa, the Medicines Control Council Registrar.

"This news is exactly what our committee has been trying to negotiate for," Welham said.

At least 80% of South Africans used African, Chinese, Ayurvedic or South American traditional medicines, she said. The proportion would be greater if homeopathic and other complementary medicines were included.

South Africans spent R3 billion a year on complementary medicines, Welham said.


Tshabalala-Msimang said the study of indigenous knowledge was "an opportunity to reclaim Africa's scientific and socio-cultural heritage, which was stigmatised and discredited as primitive rituals and witchcraft by colonialism and apartheid".

She urged delegates to expose "the false dichotomy that had arisen between natural and allopathic medicine".

"This is a division fostered by the need to make money from patented drugs through discrediting the use of natural products," she said.

The health department has ploughed R6 million into the testing of the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicines that are used as immune boosters by people with HIV/Aids.

The first phase of testing the safety of one of these medicines was completed late last year and the research had shown promising results, the health minister said.

Traditional knowledge of medicines was much older than the 150-year-old history of allopathic medicines and it drew on the rich heritage and culture of the earliest civilisations of the world in Africa, Central America, China and India, she said.

The government also funds research at universities and science councils into the efficacy of traditional medicines used to treat tuberculosis, malaria, asthma, cancer, diabetes, anxiety, stress and musculoskeletal disorders.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Monday January 17 2005
updated on Thursday December 16 2010

URL of this article:


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Readers' Comments

I am panamenian alternative bioenergetic physician living in Colombia, South America. I think we should learn to use plants in homeopathic forms and homotoxicology (Dr. Reckeweg)if the injust laws about natural healing win in 2006. All should prepare us for supervive. Thanks

Posted by: Rocio Barragan on February 8, 2005 03:55 PM


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