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Pandemic gives TCM global role

By WANG XIAODONG | China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-05 07:57
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A worker sorts products at Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical Co, which produces the Chinese medicine lianhua qingwen. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Authority places more emphasis on evidence-based scientific study

Authorities are speeding up efforts to develop new drugs based on traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions that have proved effective in treating COVID-19 to boost the fight against the pandemic, China's top TCM authority said.

Meanwhile, scientific and evidence-based research will be given more emphasis in the development of TCM, which had traditionally been based on practical experience, to promote its recognition across the world, the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine said last month.

To accelerate the availability of new COVID-19 drugs, TCM researchers have intensified efforts, including analyzing data collected during the use of TCM prescriptions in treating COVID-19 patients across China, the administration said.

Meanwhile, it has been working with the National Medical Products Administration, the top drug authority, to streamline approval procedures for TCM drugs based on existing prescriptions. A special evaluation committee comprising top academicians and TCM practitioners will be set up, the TCM administration said.

Some TCM prescriptions developed as part of the emergency response right after the start of the epidemic in China have been extensively used, with promising efficacy recorded.

Qingfei Paidu Tang, one of the prescriptions, which is based on a number of treatments mentioned in a classical TCM work dating back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), has been used in 28 provincial-level regions since February after trials proved it can effectively improve the conditions of COVID-19 patients.

Many other TCM drugs and prescriptions have also been used together with modern medicine over the past year to treat COVID-19 patients. More than 92 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients in China had used TCM, according to a white paper released by the central government in June, and more than 90 percent of patients who received TCM treatment in Hubei province, the hardest-hit area in China, saw their conditions improve.

To help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the TCM administration has increased exchanges with other countries and regions and provided assistance such as sending medical teams to guide treatment and providing TCM drugs at their request.

With increasing demand for TCM around the world, the administration will intensify efforts to promote its internationalization, including emphasizing the role of scientific research in the development of TCM, the administration said.

"Evidence-based medicine can help further elaborate the scientific nature and effectiveness of TCM, so international society can have a better understanding and recognition of TCM," it said.

The administration will encourage domestic institutions to intensify research using the latest technology and improve cooperation with leading institutes overseas to achieve breakthroughs, the administration said.

Song Ruilin, president of the China Pharmaceutical Innovation and Research Development Association, said although TCM is based on practical experience, it also needs sufficient scientific evidence to prove its efficacy, as is the case with modern medicine. Without adequate data from clinical trials, it will be difficult for TCM to be widely recognized across the world, he said.

"The classic TCM theories must be integrated with the evaluation methods of modern medicine to promote the healthy development of TCM and its internationalization," he said.

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