SERDANG: The government will be flexible in registering traditional and complementary medicine practitioners in the first round but will be strict once the law and regulations are fully enforced, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said. Noting that the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act 2013 is in the finalisation stage and would be ready for full implementation next year, Subramaniam said the ministry has been engaging with the practitioners and stakeholders for a few years now. "Overall, there are a total of 12,000 traditional and complementary medicines practitioners nationwide and we have given them ample time to register with the ministry. "For the beginning stage, we will be slightly flexible with them because there are those who have been practising for a long time and are well known," Subramaniam said. He added that the approved practitioners will be given a recognition code from the ministry's pharmaceutical bureau. Speaking to reporters after officiating at the 2014 World Chinese Natural Medicine Forum at a hotel today, Subramaniam said the ministry will be stricter in the enforcement of unregistered practitioners. He said the Act, which was gazetted in February 2013, is critical, as right now the ministry had no authority over alternative or traditional medicine practitioners. "The Act is to give them accreditation and so they must comply with the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Council which will be set up to oversee the industry based on the Act. "There will be sub-committees representing the various sections of practices in the industry and will also require the registration of medication and herbs used," he said. Subramaniam assured that all approved practices will be based on solid evidence of benefits to the people and based on scientific tests. He said the council will also comprise experts from the industry who will advise the government on the valid and accepted practices. He noted that the six main fields of practice were Malay traditional medicine, Indian traditional medicine, Chinese traditional medicine, Islamic medicine, homeopathy and complementary therapy. Meanwhile, Subramaniam said there is no indication that the zero-rated essential drug list will be expanded to more drugs as the 320 chemical compounds encompassing 4,200 brands are the commonly prescribed medicines.