Paving a way to effectively regulate African traditional medicines in South Africa
Felix, Unine Alexia Annastasia
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BACKGROUND: Following the historical suppression of traditional medicines in South Africa, the government published their National Health Plan in 1994 which made provision for traditional healing as an integral and recognised part of the health care system, inter alia, to establish a regulatory body for traditional medicines. Traditional medicines were included in the National Drug Policy for South Africa in 1996. A policy on traditional medicine was only drawn up in 2008 and is currently still in draft form. Some progress was made towards regulating traditional health practitioners; but very little towards regulating traditional medicines after its adoption into the National Health Plan over a decade ago. The aim of the study was to investigate how traditional medicines in South Africa can be effectively regulated with specific focus on the current status of traditional medicine regulation in South Africa; to highlight the challenges which have impeded progress towards regulating traditional medicines; and a review of regulatory strategies for traditional medicines in Ghana, India and the People’s Republic of China in an attempt to identify viable solutions to pave an effective way for regulating traditional medicines in South Africa.METHODS: The research design was exploratory and qualitative in nature following a deductive thematic analysis of data collected using a traditional literature review process. RESULTS: The delay in regulating traditional medicines in South Africa is due to a number of challenges where the most prominent is due to a lack in national priority to categorise African traditional medicine and to include it into the country’s national health system. Traditional medicines according to the World Health Organisation can be classified for inclusion into national health systems either as integrative or inclusive. Each of these inclusion strategies were presented by the chosen jurisdictions studied. An integrative health care system such as that used by China was found to be resource intensive in nature. An inclusive health care system as used in Ghana and India did not require traditional medicines as an integral part of the health care system and there were no expectations for the same requirements for regulating traditional medicines and allopathic medicines. What became apparent from the study was that irrespective of the inclusion strategy followed, there are still a number of challenges that obstruct the existence of an effective regulatory framework for traditional medicines with an overwhelming common factor of the instrumental role government play.