Traditional, complementary and alternative medicine attract the full spectrum of reactions – from uncritical enthusiasm to uninformed scepticism. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) use of traditional medicine (TM) remains widespread in low-income countries, while use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasing rapidly in high- and middle-income countries.
In many parts of the world, policy makers, health professionals and the public are wrestling with questions about the safety, efficacy, quality, availability, preservation and further development of this type of health care.
Increasingly countries already have, or are in the process of developing, national policies on TM and / or CAM. Such policies may aim to provide a sound basis for defining the role of TM / CAM in national health care delivery, ensuring that the necessary regulatory and legal mechanisms are created for promoting and maintaining good practice, that access is equitable, and that the authenticity, safety and efficacy of therapies are guaranteed. It can also help to ensure sufficient provision of financial resources for research, education and training.
WP6 will map the international position and status of CAM within health care policy so that the EU situation can be viewed in context, and this will require the creation of an international advisory board. Our rationale is founded on the WHO Global strategy for TM / CAM, and we will be incorporating experiences from countries in which CAM research and development is integrated and publically supported (US/Canada), while exploring its use as TM in developing countries (China/India).
It is important to understand the pros and cons of CAM research internationally – addressing issues of patient rights and needs, cost, regulation (of practitioners and products), evidence base and research policy/strategy. We have to consider the risks of over-harvesting medicinal plants, and the protection of traditional inherited knowledge of TM used within CAM.
Dealing with the global perspective, we must identify the strategies that we need to address from an EU perspective, as well as developing understanding of how the EU might relate to international developments.
WP6 will reflect on the international complexity of CAM and will facilitate future implementation of an EU research roadmap and regulatory framework.
Numerous stakeholders are engaged in these issues and will have the possibility to present their positive and / or negative views on issues such as existing recommendations regarding TM / CAM research and development (R&D;), the providers’ perspectives and citizens’ needs. Regional, provincial and national organisations will be given the opportunity to present their views on issues such as TM / CAM R&D; and its use in public health care systems. WP 6 will also ask international level stakeholders such as bilateral or multilateral organisations to present their views on TM / CAM R&D;, legal status and regulations, patient rights, costs, etc.
WP6 will enable the results from WP1–5 to be viewed in a global context so that the EU can learn from experiences across the world. The work of WP6 will be finished by the end of 2011.