Govít cautions use of alternative medicine

  • By Evaline Namuwaya
  • September 25, 2012
A Pharmacist picks drugs from the shelf. The New Times / File.

In a bid to streamline traditional and alternative medicine, the Ministry of Health has warned that any medical act performed or wished to be performed on a human being must have prior authorization.

The title of “Medical Doctor” must be recognised by nationally competent and authorised institutions such as the Rwanda Medical Council or the Ministry of Health

The warning was contained in a communiqué issued Friday.

According to experts, alternative medicine is any practice claiming to heal that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine.

It may be based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence.

Some of these include reflexology, and other medicine which has gained prominence in the recent past.

According to Arthur Asiimwe, the head of division, Rwanda Health Communication Centre, this was done in order to stop uncoordinated operations by providers.

Without outlining the types of medicine, Asiimwe said the ministry will have to set regulations that will guide the operations and creation of an umbrella body of providers of alternative medication to regulate their activities.

“Within a month we will have a meeting with those offering the services so that we reach an understanding” he continued.

The minister also warned that any use of medical or health-related titles that are not recognised by the Ministry of Health are prohibited and liable to punishment according to the Rwanda Penal Code.

“The title of “Medical Doctor” must be recognised by nationally competent and authorised institutions such as the Rwanda Medical Council or the Ministry of Health,” he said.

“Any form of advertising/promotions which is capable of misleading the public or giving them biased or incomplete information about preventive, diagnostic, or curative properties of medicines or other health related products is prohibited,” the communiqué continued.

According to Asiimwe, these service providers have their advertisements all over the place. He warned them against any public display or sale of drugs and other health products outside an authorised pharmaceutical establishment.

“It is an offence and punishable for any person or individual who sells or displays medicines and other pharmaceutical products in markets or in public places or in any other unauthorized places.”

“The Ministry of Health wishes to assure the public that it will take the necessary measures to ensure that accurate, right and legal information on healthcare services, medicines and other health related commodities is communicated to the public,” reads the communiqué.

Through the notice, the ministry also appealed to institutions concerned to comply with the provisions of the law “and the Ministry of Health will monitor its implementation.”


While I support the regulation of alternative medicine providers to some degree I do not agree with the narrow perspective that this article portrays any medicine that is non conventional or scientifically unproven is bad. Remember a scientific fact is simply a fact that has not yet been proven wrong and that is the reason for research, to generate new knowledge or challenge current scientific knowledge. While many traditional remedies may not have scientifically proven agents found within them, it does not mean that a synergistic response cannot take place within the body at cellular level. As a medically trained scientist and researcher I still strongly support a holistic approach to health care and believe that alternative medicine has a very important role to play in our health. I have used both conventional and alternative medicine in my patients for years with great success. Many internationally recognized universities undergo research in the areas of alternative medicine including Harvard Medical School. The Cuban health care system, although a resource poor country like Rwanda boasts some of the highest health care parameters in the world such as life expectancy and infant mortality. Much of the success of their health care system lies in their strong emphasis on primary health care, which includes alternative medicine. Germany advocates strongly against the overuse of antibiotics and most research on homeopathy originates from there. Africa has a long history of traditional medicine that continuously receives a bias towards negative publicity, however rarely receives international funding for research. When we hear damning reports of alternative medicines we have to question the source of the argument and how much that argument is being influenced by the multi million dollar global pharmaceutical industry. Yes there are a lot of “quacks” selling magic potions, which have caused harm but please do not paint all alternative and traditional medicine with one brush. As a poor country let us not become vulnerable to the marketing of the pharmaceutical industries but let us empower ourselves by gathering all the facts so we can make informed decisions about our own health care and the health of our nation whether we choose conventional, alternative or a combination of both. I hope that the Ministry for Health will also take the necessary measures to control the continued dispensing of over the counter medications such as human and veterinary antibiotics without prescription, which is causing serious problems relating to anti-microbial resistance in Rwanda.

22:02:28 Tuesday 25th, September 2012 Kigali - Dr. Sarah

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