Syazwani Hj Rosli
Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham bin Haji Jaafar, in response to an issue raised by Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pendirkar Alam Dato Paduka Seri Haji Hasrin bin Dato Paduka Haji Sabtu regarding the integration of traditional and complementary medicine into the national healthcare system, said there are several factors to be considered before such a move, including the availability of trained experts, regulations and the safety and effectiveness of these alternative treatments.
The minister said that the Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM) was established in May 2008, which was in 2015 renamed the Traditional and Complementary Medicine (TCM) Unit.
Among the types of TCM practices being controlled and monitored by the ministry are: traditional Malay medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Indian medicine, acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractic, homeopathy, massage, reflexology, cupping and herbal medicine.
The minister said TCM Unit aims to strengthen the quality assurance and safety of traditional and complementary medicine by providing practitioners with appropriate guidelines and regulations, reviewing and validating the certification of foreign practitioners in the country, and keeping tabs on all local and foreign TCM practitioners.
He also listed the measures taken by the ministry including keeping a record of all TCM centres, providing a letter of recommendation to applicants registering their practice and obtaining business licence as required by Registry of Companies and Business Names (ROCBN) as well as adhering to the ASEAN SOMHD Health Cluster 2: Strengthening Health Systems and Access to Care (Traditional Medicine). To date, the minister said, there are 146 centres that offer TCM across the country.
“The healthcare system in Brunei is still based on western or modern medicine. The Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam provides healthcare services for free and is easily accessible by citizens and residents of the country. The TCM services by private health premises can also be obtained but with charges. Such services are considered as complementary health services, as additional supporting treatment for modern and western medical interventions,” he said.
In response to the second issue raised by Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pendikar Alam Dato Paduka Seri Haji Hasrin on the initiatives of the Ministry of Health in ensuring the safety and quality of TCM, the minister highlighted the responsibility of the Department of Pharmaceutical Services in supervising traditional medicine and health supplements to ensure the products fulfil the quality and safety standards.
“Presently, traditional medicines and health supplements do not require a licence from the department for import and sale of the products,” he said. “However, the department continues to take the initiative in terms of administrative control by receiving applications for the importation and sale of the products, which are submitted on a voluntary basis by sellers, suppliers, importers and manufacturers. This is done to ensure that traditional medicines and health supplements marketed in Brunei Darussalam are fulfilling the product quality and safety criteria.”
He said the department, through its post-marketing surveillance, also conducts routine and unscheduled monitoring and inspection of business premises, cube shops, supermarkets, health establishments and expos across the country to ensure that these products meet the laws and regulations under the Poisons Act 1956, Medicines Order 2007 and Medicine (Cosmetic Products) 2007.
In protecting the health of the people, press releases are issued regularly to inform the public about any traditional medicines and health supplements found to be contaminated with prohibited substances either through testing or based on information provided by other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries through the Post Marketing Alert System.
“It is certainly one of the ministry’s main goals to ensure that the treatment and medical methods provided by the ministry or private agencies are the best for the public, and that include TCM services,” he said.