The World Health Organisation in its recent press release has said that it will “develop, for the first time, a classification of traditional medicine, paving the way for the objective evaluation of its benefits”; the International Classification of Traditional Medicine project. The purpose of the project is to create an “evidence base for traditional medicine – producing terminologies and classification for diagnoses and interventions”.
The project will have an interactive web-based platform allowing users of traditional medicine from all over the world towards the documenting of terms and concepts used in traditional medicine. The project will initially focus on the practices of China, Japan and Korea and will be similar to the International Classification of Diseases and other WHO standards. The press release also noted the widespread use of traditional medicine in the Western Pacific, South East Asia, Africa and Latin America and the increasing use of alternative forms of medicine in Europe and North America.
The Assistant Director-General of Innovation, Information, Evidence and Research at WHO pointed out that the classification will “allow clinicians, researchers and policy-makers to comprehensively monitor safety, efficacy, use, spending and trends in health care”.
Keeping in mind the diversity of traditional medicinal practices in different countries, the WHO has a hard task ahead. This will invariably lead to increased use of traditional medicinal practices by pharmaceutical giants. Thus, the next inevitable step should be an international benefit sharing mechanism.