LA PAZ – Bolivia’s socialist government has inaugurated two “inter-cultural” pharmacies in the Andean highlands that will sell both conventional drugs produced by the pharmaceutical industry and plant-based medicines used by Indian healers known as “kallawayas.”
The pharmacies are located in the towns of Orinoca, in the southwestern province of Oruro, and Patacamaya, in the northwestern province of La Paz.
Health Minister Ramiro Tapia said this is the start of a broader effort to distribute these traditional remedies in pharmacies nationwide.
“(Chemicals found in) traditional plants are the fundamental basis of modern-day pharmacology and in Bolivia we have a large variety that must be validated so people can benefit from them,” Tapia said Tuesday at a ceremony in which a group of kallawayas gave him a jar of valerian to relieve anxiety.
The project also calls for pharmacists to be accompanied by kallawayas.
In addition to these inter-cultural pharmacies, the Health Ministry is planning to set up a herbalist’s shop, a germplasm bank and a pilot center for growing and preserving these medicinal plants.
The Morales government has designs on mass producing these natural medicines for domestic consumption and even export.
The remedies to be sold at these pharmacies will have the necessary scientific certification, which, in Tapia’s judgment will be “the best way to combat drug counterfeiting.”
He recalled that over the past month authorities dealt “a blow” to two drug counterfeiting rings in the cities of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, seizing almost 30 tons of drugs in bad condition.
Among the plants used for medicinal purposes in Bolivia are coca – the source of cocaine but a mild stimulant in its unadulterated form – and maca, a root used to make revitalizing candies and syrups that are considered a natural remedy for erectile dysfunction.
Tapia said the project is consistent with provisions of the new Bolivian constitution – enacted by President Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of this Indian-majority country, in February – that state that natural medicines must be valued, respected and promoted.
The president of the Bolivian Federation of Traditional Doctors, Eduardo Fernandez, told Efe that natural remedies are used to combat respiratory, gastrointestinal, pulmonary, nervous system, ophthalmological and other ailments.
He said that, because they are completely organic, these medicines “are metabolized and the body assimilates them more easily.”
“Initially we have some 40 products validated, but we want to reach (a total of) some 2,000,” Fernandez said. EFE