SciDev.Net Feature Examines Integration Of Traditional Remedies With Modern Medicine

SciDev.Net features two stories on integrating traditional remedies with modern medicine.

The first examines barriers to developing traditional medicine into modern drugs, “despite widespread use of indigenous medicines, few have been able to jump the barriers … and become accepted for international use. The hurdles are formidable: research can take 10-15 years; trials are prohibitively expensive (and some argue they are incompatible with the methods of traditional medicine),” the publication writes. “Even if local people have used a medicine for many years, it usually has to start at the bottom of the research ladder if the goal is international approval.”  

Artemisinin, a malaria treatment “derived from the sweet wormwood plant,” was “developed into a major anti-malarial drug after years of research and trials,” according to the article. At the time, the drug was seen as the “beginning of an era in which promising traditional medicines might lead to mainstream drugs,” the author writes (Sharma, 6/30).

A related article features facts on traditional medicine’s “global market of more than US$60 billion,” and its wide-spread use with 80 percent of the population in Africa and Asia still undergoing “traditional remedies rather than modern medicine for primary health care.”

In addition, the article notes “that modern medicine is desperately short of new treatments. … And growing drug resistance, in part caused by the misuse of medications, has rendered several antibiotics and other life-saving drugs useless. Both these trends mean that scientists and pharmaceutical companies are urgently looking for new drug sources and are increasingly turning their eyes to traditional medicine.”

The story includes a table of modern drugs derived from traditional uses including artemisinin and quinine, another malaria medication derived from the cinchona tree and traditionally used in South America. Another table compares how traditional and modern medicine are “practiced, evaluated and managed,” including differences in formulation, regulation, testing, dosage, and training (Shetty, 6/30).

The feature also includes an editorial – “The imperatives for traditional medicine” – and opinion piece – “Ending medical dominance over the developing world.”