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TCM helps alleviate global COVID woes

By WANG HAO,ZHANG YU in Shijiazhuang and WANG XIAODONG in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-07 06:55
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A worker sorts products at Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical Co, which produces the Chinese medicine lianhua qingwen. CHINA DAILY

Picking up a box of medicine with her left hand, Zhang Jing checks it carefully with a sample in her right hand to verify what's printed on the box because she's totally lost with Russian.

In the box are two tabs with 24 capsules of traditional Chinese medicine that will be sent to Russia this month to help fight COVID-19.

"I used to handle packaging in foreign languages from time to time, but this year it's been very common," the 33-year-old said. As a workshop employee, Zhang has dealt with medicine packaging materials for over a decade in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province.

When COVID-19 grew into a pandemic, she started having to deal with packaging in the languages of many countries, including Indonesia, Romania, Thailand and Kyrgyzstan.

Based on overseas needs, China has donated TCM products to more than 10 countries and regions to help combat COVID-19, according to the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine's Department of International Cooperation.

In addition, the administration has organized almost 40 conferences and livestreaming activities with public health authorities and experts in 82 countries and regions to share China's experience in using TCM to treat COVID-19 patients.

About 50 TCM practitioners have been sent to some 30 countries-including Italy, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Russia, Ethiopia and Cambodia-to provide medical guidance and to help governments battle COVID-19, according to the international cooperation department.

The practitioners held lectures in those countries, to share experiences in COVID-19 prevention and control, and provided consultation services, it said.

"Some traditional Chinese medicines have proved to have certain effects in COVID-19 treatment," said Zhong Nanshan, a leading Chinese respiratory disease specialist, in an address at the China Health Science and Technology Innovation Development Conference in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Nov 27.

Zhong said that clinical observation has shown that lianhua qingwen, a commonly available, over-the-counter medicine in China, can help alleviate COVID-19 symptoms.

"As the next step, more research will be needed to find out the specific effective components in the medicine," he said.

To help more patients globally, the national TCM administration has supported work in foreign countries to register traditional Chinese medicines that have beneficial effects for COVID-19 patients.

Authorities in Russia issued a certificate of registration last month for lianhua qingwen, allowing it to be made available in Russian pharmacy chains and stores.

Jinhua qinggan, a traditional Chinese herbal medicine that has proved clinically effective in treating COVID-19, has been approved by authorities in Thailand and Japan and will be available in those countries, according to the medicine's producer, Juxiechang (Beijing) Pharmaceutical Co.

In April, the National Medical Products Administration added the treatment of COVID-19 to the specifications of these two medicines, as well as the xuebijing injection.

Because of the severity of the global COVID-19 pandemic, China will continue to donate TCM products to countries and regions depending on their needs, and also establish an international consultation platform focused on the use of TCM in treating COVID-19 patients, the department said.

With the huge growth in traditional medicines being sent abroad, Zhang has been much busier this year.

Her work involves picking up the packaging in stockrooms, taking it to workshops and handing it out to workers on the production lines of Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical Co, the maker of lianhua qingwen.

Before taking it from the stockrooms, she needs to check first if the packaging is the right one for product being made at the workshops.

"It drives me crazy, because I can only remember a few English words I learned at school," Zhang said, adding that she has had to deal with about a dozen foreign languages on packaging since the beginning of the year.

"I've had almost no days off from work since the coronavirus outbreak, and neither have my colleagues," she said.

Zhang added that when she had just gotten used to a certain foreign language, the packaging was likely to be changed to another one.

"It costs much more time checking the information on packaging when a new language appears. But I feel very proud of my work because what we make is used to save lives."

Yury Vladimirovich Vedov, aRussian physician and pharmacologist, said: "I knew the medicine (lianhua qingwen) last year in China and brought it back. The medicine was effective in fighting the seasonal flu and typical flu in 2019, and later COVID-19, making it a great natural antiviral drug."

More countries' approval

Russia is the 15th country to approve the medicine's sale, said Sun Xuefei, general manager at the International Trade Center of Yiling Pharmaceutical Co.

Sun said its registration is underway in more than 30 other countries, and it is going much smoother and more efficient than in the past.

"In the face of the pandemic, they have an urgent need for medicines that can be used to combat COVID-19," Sun said. In some countries, such as Uzbekistan, the medicine has been included in the governments' anti-epidemic whitelist and is available to people without it being registered, he said. In Kuwait, he added, it was designated as a medicine for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

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