Experts urged to provide convincing proof of effectiveness
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is gaining recognition around the world as an increasing number of TCM researchers win global awards, but still it is not widely accepted in the international medical system and standardization is key for wider acceptance, experts told the Global Times Thursday.
In October 2015, Chinese medical scientist Tu Youyou won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering qinghaosu (artemisinin), used to treat malaria. In 2012, hematologists Wang Zhenyi and Chen Zhu were awarded the Seventh Annual Szent-Gyorgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research for combining the Western medicine ATRA and the TCM compound arsenic trioxide to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Besides progress in the academic realm, people overseas are also getting to know more about TCM. This summer, TCM drew the world's attention when Olympics gold medal winner Michael Phelps was reported to be using cupping to relieve tension in his muscles.
People have started to believe that medical science should also focus on maintaining health instead of merely treating diseases, which has boosted the demand for TCM globally, said Zhang Boli, director of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences.
TCM now has a presence in as many as 183 countries and regions. A total of 103 countries and regions have approved the use of acupuncture and moxibustion and 18 of them have included these treatments in their medical insurance provisions, according to a TCM white paper released by the State Council Information Office on Tuesday.
And some TCMs have been registered in countries such as Russia, Cuba, Vietnam, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, it said.
However, despite this progress, TCM is still not widely accepted in the international system of medical science and medicines.
"Although institutions in Europe and the US have started to study TCM… it is still not considered a mainstream method of treatment by Western medical science," Zhang told the Global Times, adding that TCM is only popular in some countries in Southeast Asia.
Zhang said that the Chinese TCM sector should provide convincing proof about the effectiveness of TCM and standardize TCM production in line with modern scientific practices.
Liu Changxiao, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that compared with TCM, treatments like acupuncture and cupping are easier to find acceptance abroad. But overseas drug authorities still have concerns on the quality of TCM, for problems such as excessive heavy metal or pesticide residue, he told the Global Times.
He added that quality control and standardization of TCM components' cultivation and production are key for further overseas recognition.
Domestically, the sector is growing rapidly under government support. To date, 60,000 TCM and ethnic minority medical drugs have been approved, and 2,088 pharmaceutical enterprises that have been approved by the Good Manufacturing Practice of Medical Products are manufacturing Chinese patent medicines, according to the white paper.
The output of the TCM pharmaceutical industry was 786.6 billion yuan ($114.36 billion) in 2015, accounting for 28.55 percent of the total generated by the country's pharmaceutical sector, the white paper said.