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Diabetologist: Regulate herbalists
Community diabetologist at South West Regional Health Authority Dr Claude Khan says if herbalists are regulated they can work with doctors to bring better health care to patients. Khan spoke yesterday at a diabetes educational outreach programme organised by United States pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Limited just days after Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said he had asked Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard to take action against herbal practitioners who claim they could cure all illnesses. The seminar at the Couva District Facility was attended by dozens of diabetic outpatients.
Khan said one in every 13 people in T&T suffers from diabetes. “T&T leads the western hemisphere in the prevalence of diabetes and it is the leading cause of blindness, cardiovascular disease, kidney, stroke heart attack, nerve damage, loss of circulation and amputation,” he said. He said too often diabetic patients disregarded prescribed medication in favour of herbal remedies. He called for a regulatory board for the herbal industry and said every qualified practitioner should be registered before administering treatment. “One of the problems we have for herbal therapies is there is no standardisation or checks on what herbal therapies are coming in, as opposed to prescription drugs, which have to go through the food and drugs regulations,” Khan said. “ A lot of stuff is being brought in as nutritional supplements and they don’t have to go through the regulations but afterwards they are being sold over the counter to diabetic and stroke patients.”
He said it was a myth that herbal remedies had no side effects. Khan also said many practitioners did not have the qualifications to prescribe alternative medication. “You need to have some experience and qualification in diagnosing, prescribing and selling medicine. You must also be able to do further tests,” he said. He urged Government to regulate the herbal industry and enforce a stipulation for qualification. He added that penalties should be enforced for false advertising. “Some herbalists claim their remedies can heal anything from kidney stones to cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, so many people are going to the herbalists for natural remedies. They stop their prescribed medication and months later you find that their condition has gotten worse.”
Khan said it was not true that the medical fraternity was against herbalists. “We are registered with the General Medical Council of T&T and the T&T Medical Board but there is nothing like that for herbalists or alternative practitioners. The new board will regulate the industry and we can work with them,” he said.