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Traditional medicines are likely to be exempted from South African draft legislation that has been criticised for demanding that the therapies be subjected to rigorous testing, says the country's health minister.

The draft regulations said that alternative medicines such as traditional African and Chinese medicines or homoeopathic medicines should undergo the same regulation as conventional drugs. This would require them to be tested in large-scale clinical trials.

However, health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said in a recent statement that this would be not be appropriate because of different processes of testing and control for the two types of medicine. Testing alternative medicines on a large scale is difficult because they don't generate the revenue of patented drugs.

The Complementary and Traditional Medicine Stakeholder Committee welcomed the news, saying that a change in the draft regulations would benefit everyone in South Africa. Nearly 80 per cent of the population uses traditional medicines.

Meanwhile, according to the Times of Zambia, Zambian traditional healers want their government to fund testing of their remedies because they believe it is the only way effective medicines would be recognised as such and become more widely used.

Francis Khama and Howard Maila, who are researching herbal remedies, say they have developed medicines to treat HIV/AIDS and believe more should be done to recognise potentially useful local remedies.

Link to full IOL news story

Link to full Times of Zambia news story

For more on this topic, see SciDev.Net's dossier on indigenous knowledge