SHAH ALAM, April 14 — Malaysia’s Ministry of Health launched today what it believes to be the world’s first traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) research framework together with a herbal medicinal research guideline.

The ministry said the two documents would help traditional healthcare practitioners develop science-based studies on complementary and alternative medicines.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa who launched the two documents said the framework was developed as a guide for stakeholders who are interested in designing, evaluating and conducting T&CM research.

“In the pursuit towards professionalisation of the T&CM industry, research plays an important role to provide valuable input for evidence-based approach in T&CM related policy decision making as well as creating an evidence base for information on safety and efficacy of T&CM practices and products,” she said at the launch here.

“However, T&CM research in Malaysia is still in its nascent stage with one of the main challenges being harmonising modern clinical research methodologies with traditional medicine principles and theories,” she added.

The World Health Organisation, which helped develop the T&CM framework, defines traditional medicine as the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement, or treatment of physical and mental illness.

Science Direct, a peer review journal, said that traditional medicine systems are supported by huge volumes of literature and records of the theoretical concepts and practical skills, while others pass down from generation-to-generation through verbal teaching.

While still considered a fringe by most western healthcare practitioners, T&CM have deep roots in Asian culture and have long been used to complement health care provision in Malaysia.

Traditional medicine is now regulated under the T&CM Act 2016 (Act 775).

The Health Ministry said the Act plays an important role in uplifting the practice of T&CM towards a more regulated, professional and standardised arena.

Dr Zaliha said some of the key topics covered by the framework are general considerations and requirements to conduct research in Malaysia that conforms to current guidelines and regulations, and specific considerations for T&CM research which delves more deeply into the principles and key components of T&CM research.

This includes the conduct of clinical and pre-clinical research on T&CM procedure-based therapies and herbal medicine.

The other document launched today, the Guideline for Herbal Medicine Research, follows the conventional requirements for evidence-based products.

Dr Zaliha said this guideline is aimed at herbal products that will be used for therapeutic claims as defined by conventional medicine by providing comprehensive information on what data is required for herbal product development, including the quality, pre-clinical and clinical.

"This should assist both the pre-clinical and clinical researchers in designing a proper plan for successful development of herbal products with therapeutic claims," she said.

The two documents can be downloaded for free from the Health Ministry’s website.