No scientific study

- Councilor raises alarm on rise of herbal cure-all, calls for regulation

The city government is now training its sight on the proliferation of herbal supplements that claim to cure all kinds of ailments, a month after the annual celebration of Kidney Month.

At the weekly Pulong Pulong ni Pulong last Tuesday, Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte said that most advertisements by these companies promote herbal remedies based on anecdotal evidence not on scientific research by respected medical institutions.

Villafuerte chairs the council’s committee on health and will pass an ordinance to regulate the manufacture, selling and advertisement of herbal medicines and food supplements in the city.

The councilor pointed out that the government technically recognizes traditional medicine, especially with the passage of Republic Act 8423 or the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997 but the tradition medicines have to undergo rigorous research and study by medical scientists.

The DOH even has a unit called the Philippine Institute for Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC), which outlines programs using treatments currently dubbed as traditional, such as the use of herbal medicine and other products.

Initially, there were 10 herbal medicines promoted by the DOH, which include akapulco, ampalaya, bawang, bayabas, lagundi, niyog-niyogan, pansit-pansitan, sambong, tsaang gubat, and yerba Buena.

However, Villafuerte said there was an alarming increase in the number of products that are peddled as “cures” to ailments even without undergoing a rigid scientific study over the past years.

“All these have claims of curing different diseases but these actually bear the label of ‘no approved therapeutic claims’ on their packages or bottles,” Villafuerte said.

This disclaimer is issued by the Food and Drug Administration.

Doctors have noticed a rise in the incidence of symptoms associated with kidney disease, Villafuerte said.

There is a need to study the effect of these herbal concoctions to people who have existing ailments, as well as patients who were taking other medicines along with the herbal supplements.

For the study to be conducted, the councilor said “we need to select people who are at risk of developing side effects or toxicity. We have to know if it has interactions with the other medicines that our patients are taking, and if these are suitable to those with other co-existing diseases.”

Nephrologist Vida Acosta Villanueva, in an interview, said that they have found increased levels of creatinine in some patients taking some herbal supplements.

However, she said it was difficult to zero in on the drugs as the cause of kidney diseases, citing that the patients may have other chronic diseases.

“We noted increase in level of creatinine in some patients taking these (herbal supplements),” she said.

The Philippine Nephrological Society is still drafting its official statement, Villanueva said.