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Traditional medicine fights for recognition
( 2002-10-10 09:57 ) (1 )

Greater efforts should be made by those involved with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to raise its profile overseas so it can contribute more to people's health globally, a top TCM official said.

China has made great progress in introducing TCM to the world in the past 20 years but many hurdles still need to be overcome, said Shen Zhixiang, director of Department of International Co-operation under the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

These include the low level of international co-operation, poor approval rates by foreign countries and stagnant exports, Shen said.

Most international co-operation projects in traditional medicine scientific research are mainly focused on research into new medicines.

But co-operation in clinical and basic theory research is still in its infancy.

Nearly 10,000 clinics for traditional Chinese medicine and treatment have been established in many countries. However, the majority of them are not in hospitals.

Many countries, such as Australia and France, have graduate courses in traditional Chinese medicine and treatments, such as acupuncture, at universities.

Chinese domestic universities and academies have trained about 20,000 overseas students in TCM and acupuncture since 1987.

And foreign students have begun to study more aspects of TCM now instead of focusing only on acupuncture, said Cui Yongqiang, director of International Training Centre of Clinical Acupuncture and TCM with the Beijing-based Guang'anmen Hospital of the China Academy of TCM.

More than 90 per cent of foreign students at Cui's hospital studied only acupuncture three years ago.

This percentage has now decreased to about 50 per cent.

Most foreign countries have not registered TCM and acupuncture doctors who have not received graduate education.

So these doctors cannot do experiments and clinic practice in local medical academies when they study in university, which has greatly stunted the promotion of these doctors' comprehensive clinical levels.

In addition, some counterfeit and inferior TCM products have been found on overseas markets, which has seriously damaged the image of TCM.

Bogus doctors have also been unmasked.

Prejudice over TCM still widely exists.

Traditional medicines, including TCM, do not have academic and legal status in nearly half of the foreign countries.

The Food and Drug Administration of the United States has not approved any TCM products.

The value of the traditional medicine market globally is US$10 billion annually.

Although it is a major cradle of traditional medicines, China accounts for only 3 per cent of the market.

The export value of TCM was only US$530 million last year, which was about US$60 million less than that in 1996.



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