Alternative medicine article in Malaysia questions regulatory adequacy

An alternative medicine article in Malaysia offers a comparative snapshot of legal and regulatory issues.

In Alternative Medicine: Seeking the best of both worlds, a pharmacist with a doctorate in Holistic Medicine who is a director of the Malaysian Herbal Corporation and a CEO of a group of companies in alternative health care, warns consumers against under-regulated CAM therapies.

He warns against evidentiary gaps and sometimes large claims, and cautions that as to this state of affairs, "naturally, this irritates doctors, upsets other allied professionals and baffles regulators. Such claims hoodwink a gullible public, sometimes desperately seeking a cure and willing to trade their lives for it."

In the U.S., state licensure requirements, medical malpractice rules, informed consent requirements, professional discipline by state regulatory boards, federal and state food and drug laws, and other bodies of regulation help protect the consumer. But, in other regions, the author writes: 'Unlike modern trained doctors and pharmaceutical drugs, there are no standardised systems in place for training and trials. Until recently, traditional medicine had few regulations covering it. One who attends a weekend course in China or India can qualify to be a practitioner. Similarly, some of the concoctions that are given have little standardisation or undergone scientific scrutiny. Thus, the consuming public is at risk. You have bogus practitioners and contaminated as well as sub standard products.'

The author concludes the integrative medicine, 'the best of both worlds,' would be ideal:

'The public wants the industry and practitioners to behave and would support responsible regulations by the government and interested parties. Here lies a conundrum. Can doctors, pharmacists and other allied professionals, trained in the different way, actually work to regulate this industry? Fortunately, the trend by governments worldwide is to regulate this better. Indeed, China and India have made great strides. Our Ministry of Health has also been working on this issue over the last few years.'

Current regulatory strides in the U.S. and the U.K. may provide some working models.

Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers general corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law with a unique focus on alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies.

Michael H. Cohen is Principal in Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and also President of the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine (also known as the Institute for Health, Ethics, Law, Policy & Society), a forum for exploration of legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues involved in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care. The most recent published book by Michael H. Cohen on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy pertaining to complementary, alternative and integrative medicine and related fields is Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion. This is the fourth book in a series, following Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998), Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution (2000), and Future Medicine: Ethical Dilemmas, Regulatory Challenges, and Therapeutic Pathways to Health Care and Healing in Human Transformation (2003).

Health care and corporate lawyer Michael H. Cohen has also been admitted to the Bar of England and Wales as a Solicitor (non-practicing), adding to Bar membership in four U.S. states.