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Ministry okays 90 complementary medicines

Strategy to include herbal and traditional medicine into mainstream health care systems

Gulf News

Dubai: The Ministry of Health on Wednesday said it has adopted 90 new complementary medicines as part of its strategy to include herbal and traditional medicines into mainstream health-care systems.

Announcing the decision, Dr Ameen Hussain Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Policy and Licensing Sector, said the ministry would also regulate prices.

Dr Amiri said: “Complementary medicines are an essential part of our health-care systems and there is a great need for an innovative system to measure risks of complementary medicines based on the highest international standards.”

The decision was announced at a meeting attended by representatives from the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD), Zayed Complex for Herbal Research and Traditional Medicine, and Dubai Municipality, among other organisations.

The drugs covered ranged from those used for various illnesses such as liver disease and diabetes to tranquillisers and nutritional supplements. Sourced from different countries in the European Union, the United States and Australia, the medications are subjected to strict registration criteria to ensure their quality and effectiveness of efficacy.

Dr Al Almiri added that a committee was currently reviewing reports submitted by various pharmaceutical companies to the executive subcommittees, as well as the quality reports and analysis and stability results submitted to the ministry’s Medical Products Quality Control Section. He pointed out that the ministry’s assessments were strictly based on the existing criteria. During the course of its evaluation, the ministry had rejected five medicines recently for not adhering to quality standards.

In order to measure the potential health risks from these medicines, the ministry had adopted a new system which took several factors into consideration such as product formulation, usage, source and targeted patient groups. It also consolidated various quality control factors into a single platform for efficient risk ratio measurement and proper classification of each medicine, from low- to high-risk categories. Each category was being handled differently for faster registration and application of strict quality standards using a point-based system as an assessment tool.

Dr Al Amiri noted that the UAE had successfully taken a leading position in the regional pharmaceutical industry due its fast medicine registration process.

The ministry officials revealed that in coordination with specialised organisations from other Gulf countries, it was studying a price regulation mechanism for all types of complementary medicines such as herbal products, supplements and medical cosmetics. Dr Al Amiri noted that price regulation posed a challenge in this genre of medicines in the absence of any regulatory price restriction in countries where these medicines were available. Dr Al Amiri assured that the UAE was coordinating with other Gulf countries to come up with a fair and effective price mechanism.

As the federal arm responsible for the regulation, registration and pricing of all types of medical products in the UAE, the Ministry of Health represented the country in these negotiations.

Fast-emerging international developments in the complementary medicine industry

Complementary medicines have already become an essential part of the global health-care system, especially in Europe where some countries have health insurance policies covering these products. Dr Al Amiri noted that many Arab countries have seen the emergence of complementary medicines over the past few years. However, some of these states have yet to implement essential legislations, thus affecting their provisions in the region. The UAE, for its part, has already passed relevant regulations, federal legislations and administrative decisions such as Federal Law No (20) Of 1995. He assured that the UAE’s legislative system is capable of addressing fast-emerging international industry developments.

The need to regulate the industry has risen due to the growing number of patients opting to use natural products. Many of them have been found relatively ineffective against many of the ills they have claimed to help and doesn’t contain 100 per cent natural ingredients. This poses risks to lives and, in some cases, may even lead to deaths. Dr Al Amiri pointed out that it is a global problem faced by many countries. Given the risks, he said specialised authorities must protect society from fake products which can easily be sold due to the popularity of social media and other modern communication channels. He assured that the UAE is one of the leading countries that monitor fake products through strict inspection and control procedures and innovative medicine registration and certification systems.

Dr Al Amiri urges the public not be misled by impostors on social media. He encouraged them to purchase their medicines from certified outlets only such as public pharmacies which are always being monitored.