The Ministry of Public Health aims to have up to 100 medicinal herbs on the National Essential Drug List, which now consists of 71 herb items.
Public Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri stated that 5–10 herb items would be added to the list each year, from 2012 to 2015.
Mr. Wittaya has also supported an increase in herbal medicine and traditional Thai treatment in state hospitals under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Health from 10 percent to 20 percent by 2013. In 2012, he said, four more kinds of herbal drugs would be added to the list, until it reaches 100 by 2015, to replace some kind of expensive Western medicines.
At present, Thailand imports about 130 billion baht worth of Western medicines a month on average, which accounts for 30 percent of the country’s medical expenses. This percentage is higher than that registered in developed countries, which import only 20 percent.
Moreover, the Ministry of Public Health aims to achieve two more purposes by 2015. Firstly, the number of Thai medical clinics which have permanent traditional Thai doctors and traditional Thai treatment services will be increased from 200 to 800. Secondly, the number of rural hospitals which provide traditional Thai medical treatment, particularly Thai massage and herbal drugs, will be raised by 50 percent in the next three years.
Rich in natural resources, Thailand is a tropical country which has plenty of natural herbs. The Government attaches greater importance to traditional medicine, and by adding more indigenous herb items to the National Essential Drug List, medicinal herbs are expected to earn more recognition among the public. This will reduce Thailand’s heavy dependence on exports of Western medicine and its medical expenditures.
The national policy and program on traditional medicine of Thailand was issued in 1993, when the Institute of Thai Traditional Medicine was officially established under the Department of Medical Services. In 2002, the institute was placed under the newly established Department for Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, Ministry of Public Health. Meanwhile, the national policy on complementary and alternative medicine was issued in 2002, when the Division of Complementary and Alternative Medicine was established under the Department for Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine.
Medicinal Plant Research Institute, the Department of Medical Sciences, is one of the national research institutes conducting complete cycled research on medicinal plants to develop into single herbal medicines and setting up standard specifications of medicinal plant materials. Meanwhile, the Institute of Thai Traditional Medicine is responsible for research on the body of knowledge of Thai traditional medicine and evaluation of the therapeutic efficacy of certain practices and recipes.