Chinese Success Since 1996 in Globalizing Traditional Chinese Medicines Examined

WJTCMIn a timely theme following award of the Nobel in Medicine to research Tu Youyou, the World Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (WJTCM) has recently published an analysis of the success of the Chinese government’s effort, since 1996, to globalize acceptance of TCM. The authors note that TCM in its “broad sense” involves the philosophy and integration of all of TCM, including exercise, diet, foods, acupuncture, and health promotion. The interest in the article is globalization “in a narrow sense, refer[ing] to the successful registration of TCM products as prescription drugs in the drug regulatory agencies” of other countries.

They document some headway. The US Pharmacopeia has adopted a few TCM monographs, and “over 45 TCM quality monographs were recorded in the European Pharmacopoeia with 20 more in progress.” The Netherlands has registered a product, Diao Xin Xue Kang (pictured)—the first to gain such status in Europe. Others are in the process elsewhere. “So far,” however, with nine applications for recognition in the United States filed and in process, “there has been still not any TCM product authorized as a drug by the FDA regardless of a few TCM products in phase III or phase II clinical trials.”

Diao Xin Xue KangThe authors conclude that the Chinese government underestimated what globalization would take. This included background research in the basic areas of proving safety, efficacy, and quality. A better coordinated and more fully invested relationship between government, industry, and entrepreneurs is recommended. They suggest also that the Chinese pioneers in this realm need to be better schooled on how to work in the US and European systems. Without these escalations in the Chinese campaign, despite “long-term clinical practice in China [regulation] becomes a highly difficult and even unpractical matter” in the United States and Europe. The authors are each from the Institute of Materia Medica at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai. WJTCM is sponsored by the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS).

Comment: I had hoped, on seeing the title of the piece—“Current Status and Future Perspective in the Globalization of Traditional Chinese Medicines”—that the authors would also concern themselves with the “broad” view of TCM. There is no mention of acupuncture at all, except perhaps as an “alternative medicine” that is part of TCM. A review of the global outcomes of the intentional investment of the Chinese government in acupuncture practice would reveal much greater headway. Yet while China can get cultural hegemony points via exporting acupuncture as TCM, the procedure’s non-patentability means that there is little attraction in that strategy for China’s booming industrialists.

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