Home > Current Events > Year 2012 January
A review of stories making the headlines.

Rogue Hong Kong pharmacies targeting tourists
Securing Pharma, 3 January 2012

Pharmacies are springing up at tourist areas in Hong Kong in order to peddle counterfeit medicines to visitors from mainland China. According to the government, the Customs have received 232 complaints in the last three years about pharmacies selling fake proprietary medicines - including TCM brands - leading to 54 prosecutions and 55 convictions of individuals or companies. In addition, over the same period the Consumer Council received 78 complaints and there were five lodged with Hong Kong's Tourist Board.

Licorice root may combat tooth decay and gum disease
Dentalplans.com, 4 January 2012

The leading causes of tooth loss worldwide are tooth decay and gum disease, which can be prevented by brushing and flossing daily and by making regular trips to the dentist. Researchers discovered another possible way to fight these conditions using an ingredient that is normally found in TCM. Two substances in dried licorice appear to effectively kill the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease, licoricidin and licorisoflavan A. The compounds fought off three of the prominent forms of bacteria that cause these conditions. Researchers believe that licorice could someday be used to prevent a score of oral infections.

Learning Chinese medicine
New Straits Times, 9 January 2012

The government will provide aid in the form of equipment and medicine worth RM5000 under the ¡§Azam 1Malaysia¡¨ programme for youths in the low-income group who wish to practice Chinese medicine, said Deputy, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Heng Seai Kei. She said individuals with a monthly income of RM2000 were eligible for the aid, but would first have to register with the Malaysian Chinese Medicine Physicians and Acupuncturists Association. ¡§We will help them to start up the practices by providing equipment and medicine recommended by the association,¡¨ she said in an opening for the Malaysian Chinese Physicians and Acupuncturists Association Centre.

Acupuncture little better than sham for migraine
Reuters, 9 January 2012

Chinese acupuncture seems little better than a sham version of the procedure when it comes to preventing migraines, a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests. Many have found that migraines can get relief from acupuncture. But often, true acupuncture has worked no better than sham acupuncture. That raises the question of whether acupuncture works by non-specific effects, according to the lead researcher, Dr. Ying Li of Chengdu University of TCM in China. Li's team recruited 480 adults who had migraines at least twice a month, and were randomly assigned to one of four groups: In three, patients were given one of three different types of acupuncture that focused on traditional points, with electrical stimulation added to the needling; the fourth group received a sham version. After treatment, the real acupuncture groups were doing slightly better, while the sham group held steady at around three headache days. The advantage was clinically minor, according to Li's team.

Study: traditional Chinese, Western treatments combo can boost fertility
Medical Daily, 9 January 2012

Combining TCM and a Western treatment results in a significant increase in fertility, according to a study results from Tel Aviv University. Out of women who received the combined therapy, over 65% were able to conceive, compared to just 39% of patients who only underwent the Western-style intrauterine insemination infertility treatment. Lead researcher Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari followed the progress of 29 women who received the combined therapy, and 94 women who underwent IUI treatment alone. TCM can affect the ovulation and menstrual cycle, enhance blood flow to the uterus, and enhance endorphin production and secretion to inhibit the central nervous system and induce calm, all of which can contribute to successful conception. The results are published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine.

Traditional cure at more clinics
New Straits Times, 13 January 2012

The Health Ministry will expand the practice of traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) to more government hospitals and clinics. Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said alternative medicine should be made available to the public to encourage its development. Liow said the World Health Organisation had identified TCM as an important alternative treatment to improve healthcare. This will also help Malaysia, which is rich in herbal plants, as a favourite TCM destination when it comes to health tourism. The Ministry planned to open two integrated hospitals every year that offer TCM. Currently, 10 government hospitals are offering TCM services.

Harper government creates advisory committee on traditional Chinese medicines
NorthumberlandView.ca, 12 January 2012

The Minister of Health announced the creation of a national advisory committee on Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCMs). The mandate of the new committee is to provide Health Canada's Natural Health Products Program Directorates with advice on current and emerging issues related to Traditional Chinese Medicines such as the importation, sale, and use of TCMs in Canada, including novel TCMs. Committee membership will be comprised of stakeholder representatives from industry, consumer, patient, health care professional, academic and government organizations and groups. More than 1400 TCMs are currently authorized for sale in Canada.

Factbox: traditional Chinese medicine
Reuters, 13 January 2012

As Beijing shifts its growth engine to cleaner hi-tech industries, committing $1.7 trillion over the next five years to nurture them, Chinese scientists are enjoying unprecedented government support and access to funding to design better drugs and diagnostic tools for chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. Part of that effort and money is going into traditional Chinese medicines (TCM). Researchers are re-examining roots and herbs that have been used for thousands of years, seeking to find and reproduce their active ingredients and putting them through rigorous Western-style clinical tests so they may hopefully find wider acceptance and be sold globally.

Blogs bring new era to medicine
China Daily, 16 January 2012

Chinese medical professionals are taking up micro-blogging. There is no official count on these kind of bloggers, but physicians specialized in chronic diseases and cancer are among the most popular, said Li Na, an editor in the health news department of Sina. ¡§The popularity of physicians is largely decided by their communication skills, and the active users are usually relatively young,¡¨ she said, ¡§among the medical professional bloggers, 50% registered on their own while others were invited by the website.¡¨ Gu Zhongyi, a dietitian who has been using the Sina blog for more than a year, told that he was happy having more than 270000 followers. However, many experts worry about the potential risks and challenges related to those medical blogging, and urge proper guidance and management. So far, there are no guidelines or regulations to guide medical professionals on the use of social media in general.

Ancient Chinese herb could prevent hangovers and cure alcohol dependency
Activequote.com, 16 January 2012

Scientists have discovered that a compound in ancient Chinese herbal medicine can prevent hangovers and even cure alcohol dependency. Hovenia is an extract from the Chinese Raisin Tree. Dr. Jing Liang, an associate professor of pharmacology at the University of California, isolated the specific compound that was blocking the effect of alcohol, called dihydromyricetin (DHM), and tested the compound on rats. Their results, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, show that the symptoms of alcohol dependency were greatly reduced; all rats given DHM with alcohol had reduced hangover symptoms. Dr Liang now wants to test it in human clinical trials. If the compound is proven effective, it could be turned into a medication, possibly in gum, patch or spray-form.

Pharma and medical exports likely to surge
China Daily, 18 January 2012

The growth of imports and exports of Chinese-made medicines and health products almost doubled the growth rate of the nation's total foreign trading volume as a whole during the first 11 months of last year, and is expected to continue increasing this year. It is forecasted that exports of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment will register a year-on-year increase of 20% in 2012. Growth in the emerging markets is expected to be higher. Statistics from a State-owned industry association under the Ministry of Commerce show that the trading volume of China's pharmaceuticals and medical equipment sector totaled $66.02 billion between January and November 2011, with a year-on-year increase of 39.4%, compared with 23.6% growth in the nation's total imports and exports over the same period.

Struck-off doctor to stars avoids jail term
Hong Kong Standard, 19 January 2012

Dr. Yip Chin-sang who helped the rich and famous get pregnant was given a suspended jail term for practicing Chinese medicine without being registered or listed. The court earlier heard that Yip continued to practice Chinese medicine although he was permanently delisted by the Chinese Medicine Council for failing to maintain records of patients' treatments. This was considered to be a serious breach of professional conduct. Yip pleaded guilty to the two charges of practicing while being deregistered and asked Acting Principal Magistrate David Dufton for a lenient sentence. Most doctors who practice without a license are given immediate custodial sentences.

An unlikely root of China's prized cure
China Daily, 20 January 2012

Ginseng is a multimillion-dollar business and is the golden crop in the fields of Wisconsin. An unexpected winter storm in 2010 destroyed more than 50% of their ginseng crops, which take three to four years to fully mature, making their recovery a slow-going process, says Joe Heil, president of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin. While he maintains an optimistic view that the drop in Wisconsin crops is actually a turning point for production, the price of the crop has shot up to a record $40-$60 per pound. He expects a slight increase in the number of farmers going back to ancient Midwestern practices. In late 2010, the Board signed a five-year contract that guarantees one of China's oldest and most respected apothecaries, Tongrentang, the exclusive distribution rights.

Chinese medicine threatens Ningaloo manta rays
ABC, 25 January 2012

Manta rays in Western Australia's Ningaloo marine park are threatened by the growing worldwide demand for their gill rakers, according to the Global Threat to Manta and Mobula Rays report. ¡§The report shows that worldwide, manta and mobula rays are declining, particularly in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia,¡¨ said Frazer McGregor from Murdoch University's field station in the Ningaloo park, ¡§their gill rakers are dried and boiled as a health tonic, primarily for traditional Chinese medicine.¡¨ Professor Mike Bennett, a ray researcher from the University of Queensland, says the report raises important issues about manta rays worldwide. ¡§Manta ray fisheries are unlikely to be sustainable; they have very conservative life histories, reaching maturity at about 10 years of age and producing a single pup every two to three years.¡¨ The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently updated the status of manta rays from threatened to vulnerable due to overfishing.

Scientists urge unis to axe alternative medicine courses
Sydney Morning Herald, 26 January 2012

More than 400 doctors, medical researchers and scientists have formed a powerful lobby group to pressure universities to close down alternative medicine degrees. Almost one in three Australian universities now offer courses in some form of alternative therapy or complementary medicine, including traditional Chinese herbal medicine, chiropractics, homeopathy, naturopathy, reflexology and aromatherapy. The new group, Friends of Science in Medicine, warned that by giving ¡§undeserved credibility to what in many cases would be better described as quackeryz¡¨ and by ¡§failing to champion evidence-based science and medicine¡¨, the universities are trashing their reputation as bastions of scientific rigour. The group is also campaigning for private health insurance providers to stop providing rebates for alternative medical treatments. German and British medical insurance providers are also in the process of removing alternative therapies from their lists.

Chinese investors are putting their money in everything from art to caterpillar fungus
Business Insider, 30 January 2012

Chinese investors are becoming more creative with their money as traditional markets have dried up. Real estate, the stock exchange, and bank deposit rates no longer offer the returns investors expect, but dead caterpillar fungus just might. Speculation is emerging in Chinese art, liquor, furniture, medicine, and yes, fungus and it's not yet clear if this is yet another bubble. Long Xingchao, president of the information center of the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, told that ¡§there's nothing to pop,¡¨ referring specifically to traditional medicines like red ginseng and false stalwort, whose prices have gone up considerably in two years.

British zoos on alert as rhino poaching hits the UK
IBTimes.co.uk, 30 January 2012

Zoos in Britain have been warned their rhinos may be targeted by poachers because of the increasing value of ivory in the Asian medicine market. It is understood that rhino horn has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fevers whereas, in Vietnam it is commonly prescribed as a ¡§detoxicant¡¨ and as an antidote to overindulgence. It is rumored that some Asian cultures believe rhino horn can even cure cancer. The horn is now worth more than $40,000 (¢G25,500) per kilogram. Traffickers and gangs have been breaking into museums and auction rooms in Britain and Europe to steal rhino heads and horns. British authorities fear the next target will be live rhinos housed in zoos.

Compiled By:
Rose Tse, Integrated Chinese Medicine Holdings Ltd.