HARARE – Government has bowed to popular pressure and decreed that the State backed traditional complementary cancer medicine, pending an independent investigation of whether or not they work.
This comes in the wake of herbalists claiming an 80 percent success rate in curing cancer, against a 2 percent success rate by the medical side.
Yet supporters of evidence-based medicine fear the process will confer credibility on dubious treatments.
Permanent secretary in the Health and Child Care minister Gerald Gwinji said yesterday they recognise indigenous knowledge systems.
“We have a Directorate of Traditional Medicine within the ministry of Health and Child Care, attesting to the value our government attaches to indigenous knowledge systems,” he said.
“The challenge however, comes in proving the effectiveness of some of the interventions thereof.
“By its nature, traditional practice is based in secrecy, making it difficult to get the opportunity to repeat the same intervention under a controlled measured environment to validate the claims.”
Zimbabwe has lots of registered complementary practitioners, practising homeopathy, herbal and traditional treatments, anthroposophy medicine — which among other techniques uses mistletoe to treat cancer and neural therapy, which is based on injecting local anaesthetics near nerve centres.
This comes as herbalist Newton Mudzingwa successfully cured a Murambinda man plagued with Kaposi Sarcoma cancer over the past eight years.
Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals consultant clinical oncologist Anna Mary Nyakabau questioned whether herbalists claiming to cure cancer meet objective measures of efficacy linked to an evidence-based evaluation.
“They are claiming success in terms of what, relieving pain, has the lump gone, or what? Ask them to elaborate,” she said.
“In most cases, cancer cannot be cured through one method, it’s usually a combination. It is a complex disease which needs a number of treatments.”
For men and women who were put on chemotherapy and radiation with a variety of cancer types, the risk of dying from those cancers within five years was 98 percent, yet those who underwent herbal treatment it was 20 percent, researchers found.