Online Program

Manufacturing Risk: Problematizing the WHO guidelines for safety of plant-based medicines

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 11:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Paul Kadetz, PhD, MPH, MSN, Department of Public Health, Marshall University, Huntington, WV
The rapid global commodification of plant-based medicines has resulted in the development of regulatory guidelines by the World Health Organization to ensure the safety of these products. However, the primary focus for proving the safety of the intrinsic factors of plant-based medicines may result in less attention paid to the often more problematic extrinsic factors of mass production. This qualitative research was conducted in the Traditional Medicine Unit of the Western Pacific Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) and in field work in the rural Philippines. Data was collected through archival research, analysis of WHO datasets, semi-structured and structured interviews and surveys, participant observation concerning local plant-based medicine use in the Philippines and participant observation in WHO meetings regarding future strategies for traditional Asian medicines. Informants reported concerns of safety for every aspect of the production, marketing and sales of plant-based medicines. The rapid global commodification of plant-based medicines has affected both their potency and safety. Local understandings of potency and proper use have usually been disregarded. The WHO discourse of the need for safety in the use of plant-based medicines has justified the need for biomedical oversight via processes of commodification. Yet, it is often through these very processes of commodification and mass production that safety may be compromised. This research suggests that the discourse concerning the safety of plant-based medicines needs to be reframed from a primary focus on the intrinsic factors of plant-based medicines to a greater focus on the extrinsic factors of global commodification.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Differentiate between the internal factors of the safety of the plant itself from the external safety of the commodification processes. Critically examine the WHO policies for plant-based medicines.

Keyword(s): Alternative and Complementary Health, Public Health Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conducted and analyzed all research presented.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.