Golden, however, was quick to emphasize that his study only examined the economics of the natural remedies versus pharmaceuticals, not whether they were equally effective.
"What we're trying to do is account for the economic value the local floral bio-diversity provides to people in this area of Madagascar," Golden said. "We're not assuming there is a medical equivalency this study is about the perceived efficacy. The people who live in this region often have taken both pharmaceuticals and traditional medicines many times, but there is a perceived efficacy for these traditional medicines."
Measuring that perceived efficacy involved surveying 1,200 households in and around Maroantsetra, a city in the northeast corner of the island nation, to determine which natural medicines they used.
To establish the economic benefit of each natural remedy, Golden asked whether people would prefer to use the natural or pharmaceutical remedy for a given illness. If, for example, 60 percent of those asked said they preferred the traditional medicine, Golden established its value as being 60 percent of the price of its pharmaceutical cousin.
"Certainly, because there's no proof of medical equivalency between these treatments, it could easily be an over-estimation to establish these values," Golden said. "But the bio-diversity in these regions represents a huge pharmacopeia, and there are many hidden benefits to the use of these sorts of traditional medicines. These medicines aren't being improperly prescribed or mismanaged, and because they've been used for millennia, we know they're not producing any type of negative side effects."
The economic benefits offered by natural medicines, however, may not end at those who rely on them to treat day-to-day ailments.
The corner of Madagascar that Golden studied contains nearly one percent of all the global floral biodiversity, meaning the cha
|Contact: Peter Reuell|