Traditional medicine producers fail to meet standards

Hundreds of traditional medicine producers in HCMC have shut shop, as few meet the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standard required by the Ministry of Health.

A traditional medicine shop in Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street in District 5 (Photo: SGGP)

Many traditional medicine traders in Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street were in despair as they had to halt manufacturing for two months, being unable to meet with the standards set forth by the Ministry, even though they have been in the family trade for more than 50 years.

The GMP in the health sector is part of a quality system covering the manufacture and testing of active pharmaceutical ingredients, pharmaceutical products, diagnostics, medical devices and food. It also requires the origin of materials for medicine processing to be clearly stated.

In HCMC alone, many producers have decried the ministry’s regulation, saying they were facing the risk of a shutdown and although justified, it was suitable only when applied to modern medicine and large-scale manufacturing. The small-scale household manufacturers of oriental medicine are unable to meet the standards recognized by the World Health Organization.

The HCMC Department of Health reports the existence of 385 traditional medicine stores and 100 small manufacturers in HCMC, mainly in District 5. About 80 per cent of the raw material for traditional medicine processing comes through unofficial trade channels while the new standard regulation requires that origin of materials for medicine processing be clearly stated.

Pham Khanh Phong Lan, deputy director of HCMC’s Health Department, said that most of the general hospitals have a specific Division of Traditional Medicine. She said that traditional medicine methodologies cured over 2 million patients annually.

However, these divisions always faced a shortage of herbal medications as no-one took part in the bidding procedure as they can’t meet the Ministry of Health’s regulations. Herbal doctors in hospitals just practice physical therapy and acupuncture and patients therefore go to outside herbal stores to purchase drugs.

It is clear that the Ministry of Health needs to assess the real situation to seek a suitable criteria and new timeline for these manufacturers to apply the standard regulations.

Under the government’s action plan to develop traditional medicines by 2020, most of the provinces in Vietnam must construct traditional medicine hospitals which also use advanced bio-medical technology and are able to treat their patients more efficiently by 2015. In 2020, most of the large and district hospitals will have traditional medicine divisions.

According to the plan, the percentage of patients treated by traditional practitioners must be raised in the bigger.

Last year, the Ministry of Health submitted seven projects for approval, including building and upgrading hospitals that practice traditional medicine, providing equipment to hospitals and setting up of management offices. 

By Tuong Lam - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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