THERE is a need for self-regulation and state regulation of the alternative medicine and treatment sector, says Dr Asante VanWest-Charles-Le Blanc, a member of the Health Ministry Herbal Sub-Committee.
“We have to regulate. Not all practitioners are medical doctors. And not because it is called ‘herbal’ and ‘natural’ does not mean it can’t be dangerous.”
She was speaking yesterday as stakeholders of non-traditional medication in the treatment of non-communicable diseases met with the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Social Services and Public Administration at the Parliament Building, Port of Spain.
She said with self-regulation there need to be certified schools for practitioners and a board of natural/alternative medicine and, as she is a doctor as well, there should be a medical liaison with the Medical Board.
VanWest-Charles-Le Blanc said there must be a policy and it has to be regulated and a lot of groundwork needed to be done. She added, however, to shut down the sector and make it almost criminal will cause more problems.
“The world today is leaning towards that. And not just leaning; it is there.”
She said there can be a policy locally to integrate both eastern and western medicine.
JSC chairman Paul Richards said it was a pressing life-and-death issue in TT.
“People are advertising health benefits and people are neglecting what may be interventions that can save their lives,” he warned. “In some instances people have died because they have (gone) to the side of these advertisements and said, ‘Well, forget this I am taking on this.’ And there’s no accountability or repercussions for persons who have advertised and sold them these products.”
VanWest-Charles-Le Blanc said the sub-committee was created because there is a need to regulate the products and who can prescribe them.
“The moment somebody says, ‘This will heal or this will cure,’ you have entered the pharmaceutical world, and you will have to follow the Food and Drug Act, because you are now claiming to be pharmaceutical.”
Phillip Franco of the Alternative Medicine Association of TT said there is a needfor regulations on advertising and what people can say on various media.
“There are some practitioners (against whom) I think the Medical Board can take action but I don’t know why they are not taking action.”
In July Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told Parliament his ministry had sent multiple files to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) alleging instances where herbalist Trevor Sayers had breached the Food and Drug Act. When Newsday contacted Sayers at the time and told him about the files at the DPP’s office against him, he hung up the phone.