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

Cost of traditional medicine shoots up
China Daily, 2 March 2012

According to Yunnan provincial chamber of medicinal herbs, more than 80% TCM herbs have increased in price since late last year, because of the drought in Southwest China. The price of one herb, sanqi (pseudo-ginseng), has increased to more than 500 yuan/kg in Guangzhou herbal markets, a 60% rise over the past year, while other commonly used herbs have increased up to 30%. In Yunnan's Wenshan prefecture, which annually produces more than 97% of the country's sanqi, the drought has seriously affected growth and production. A trader surnamed Chen in Guangzhou said business had dropped by around 15% since the beginning of year. The prices in major TCM hospitals in Guangzhou, however, remain stable. But a doctor from Guangdong TCM hospital said he could not promise the hospital's TCM prices would remain unchanged.

New solutions for old company
China Daily, 2 March 2012

Tongrentang Health is a subsidiary of Tongrentang that focuses on the production of herbal healthcare supplements. The Company has gained a solid footing in China and established itself as a major player in the market. The sales manager, Song Tong, says in 2003 its revenue was 180 million yuan, but in just eight years that figure soared to 5.6 billion yuan in 2011, making a major profit contribution to Tongrentang. The Company is aiming for 10 billion yuan in sales revenue by 2014. In 2011, the turnover of its online business reached 17 million yuan, and they are committed to introducing more premier natural health items from overseas.

Critics worry about influence of Chinese institutes on U.S.
Nytimes.com, 4 March 2012

Confucius Institute is regarded as a cultural outpost of China government, and has 350 branches on campuses around the world. For cash-strapped university administrators, the institutes can seem like a godsend, bringing not just Beijing-trained and -financed language teachers and textbooks but also money for a director¡¦s salary and a program of public events. Critics worry that such largess comes with strings attached. Martin Davidson, chief executive of the British Council, said we are a stand-alone organization operating out of our own premises, they are being embedded in university campuses, and none of these organizations adopt the same homogenous approach to their native cultures found in Confucius Institutes. The danger is more of self-censorship which is a very subtle thing.

Uni health courses under fire
Thewest.com.au, 5 March 2012

Leading doctors say universities that offer pseudoscientific health courses undermine their own credibility and confuse the public. In a Medical Journal of Australia article, University of Adelaide Professor Alastair MacLennan said more than a third of Australian universities offered courses in areas such as chiropractics, naturopathy, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, iridology, complementary medicine, energy medicine and homeopathy. He said these practices were not scientifically proved and should not be taught at universities. The article lists 16 Australian tertiary institutions offering courses, units and clinics in pseudoscience. British universities have removed some courses accused of promoting science quackery. Australian vice-chancellors meet next week and many academics are hoping they will follow the British example and eliminate courses.

Recall of heavy metal-tainted and drug-tainted proprietary Chinese medicines
7th space Interactive, 5 March 2012

Hong Kong - The Department of Health (DH) urged the public not to buy or use two proprietary Chinese medicines (pCms). The first one is Anshen Bunao Pian (HKP-00253), which has been found to contain excessive level of mercury that is about 55 times the permitted level of mercury. It was manufactured in the Mainland and imported by a licenced pCm wholesaler, Fung Wah (HK) Company. This pCm is used for treating restlessness and insomnia symptoms in adult. Another one is Bi Yan Pian (HKP-08747), which was found to contain trace amount of paracetamol. It was imported by Kin Kwok Trading Co and produced also by the same manufacturer in the Mainland. This pCm is indicated for treating rhinitis symptoms.

Leukemia treatment: an east meets west story
The Wall Street Journal, 6 March 2012

Treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia has been improved significantly using a therapy that combines arsenic trioxide, a traditional Chinese medicine, with the chemo drug ATRA (otherwise known as all-trans retinoic acid). The Chinese researchers who pioneered the treatment, Zhen-Yi Wang and Zhu Chen, were recently awarded with the Szent-Gyorgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research. The combination therapy has pushed 5-year relapse-free survival about 90% for patients, according to a paper they published in PNAS that has since been replicated by others. The two components appear to work through different mechanisms to converge on the same protein that is affected by the cancer.

Chinese herb relieves daily asthma symptoms
PressTV, 6 March 2012

A study of more than 270 patients with asthma who either received a Chances mixture or standard treatment demonstrated that the herbal treatment worked better in removing symptoms compared to inhaled steroid and a bronchodilator. After 16 days of treatment, 94 % of those who took the herbal remedy became completely free from asthma symptoms while about 3/4 of those taking standard medications still had daily wheeze and other symptoms, says the report presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Health experts warned patients with asthma to avoid testing such treatments at home before their efficacy and safety are proven in large and long term clinical trials.

In search of a healthy growth model
China Daily, 12 March 2012

China exported $2.33 billion TCMs last year, an increase of 36.2% compared with 2010. And the export volume increased by 14% and prices by 23%. TCMs include formulary medicines, raw herbs, processed herbs, plant extracts and healthcare supplements. According to the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Medicines and Health Products, the export value is expected to rise by more than 10% annually for next 5 to 10 years. Chinese government departments, including the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Health and the State Food and Drug Administration, are negotiating with EU health authorities. They will under go registrations for ten selected medicines made by three large TCM companies, in attempt to explore a practical and efficient way for TCM products to re-enter the EU market.

China to help TCM extend global reach
English.news.cn, 13 March 2012

China plans to open more Confucius Institutes overseas and promote the Eastern medical science, Deputy Minister of Health Wang Guoqiang said. Official statistics showed that there are more than 350 Confucius Institutes and 500 Confucius Classrooms in 101 countries and regions. Xu Lin, the institute's chief executive, said TCM would be a highlight of newly opened Confucius Institutes in coming years. We have currently two Confucius Institutes that dedicated to teaching TCM, which are at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the London South Bank University, and a third in the US is going to open. Wang encouraged more than 20 TCM universities to seek out cooperation with overseas universities and colleges in setting up more Confucius Institutes to spread TCM. Chinese TCM doctors who have been practicing abroad for some time can be invited to teach at local Confucius Institutes to help resolve the shortage of qualified teachers, he added.

Less projects, more Science Fund support
Macau Daily, 13 March 2012

The number of projects sponsored by the Science and Technology Development Fund dropped slightly last year but the funding allocated soared. In 2011, the fund pledged almost MOP 53.2 million to research projects, up by a staggering 52% from the previous year. On the contrary, the number of approved projects dropped from 62 to 57. Most of the financial support went to 23 information technology projects (MOP 21.1 million), followed by eight TCM projects (MOP 17.2 million). The fund administrator expects to see more projects linked to clinical medicine and biotechnology in the next two years. The University of Macau (MOP 20.2 million) and the Macau University of Science and Technology (MOP 20.1 million) take up most of the funding.

New health clampdown
Gulf Daily News, 18 March 2012

Bahrain is to set up tough new guidelines to regulate the alternative medicine industry, amid fears about the credibility of some businesses. The National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) is concerned that some centers, particularly those offering treatment with Chinese medicines, may not be competent to do so. ¡§Only those registered with the State Authority of Chinese Medicine are technically the genuine providers of such treatment, but we are not yet certain how many in Bahrain actually have those credentials,¡¨ said NHRA chief executive officer Dr Baha Eldin Fateha. ¡§The centers should also be prescribing medicines approved by the Chinese authorities but, again, we are not sure how many actually do that.¡¨ Chinese authorities have agreed to help Bahrain in verifying the certificates submitted by those wishing to set up medical centers in Bahrain.

Expert claims TCM effective in treating AIDS
English.news.cn, 20 March 2012

TCM has proven a cost-effective AIDS treatment that enhances patients' immunity and improves the quality of their lives, a five-year clinical trial has concluded. Practitioners have trekked through remote counties of Sichuan province since 2006, providing medicine to more than 300 AIDS patients in a testing TCM treatment. ¡§We have found that traditional herbal medicine proves most effective in the latency period, and its intervention can effectively postpone AIDS outbreak,¡¨ claimed Zhang Yi, vice president of the Sichuan Academy of Chinese Medicine Sciences. ¡§TCM treatment proves most effective when patients' virus copies are under 100,000 and their CD4 counts are around 800,¡¨ he said. ¡§If treated in time, their CD4 counts can be kept above 350, a level considered fairly healthy.¡¨

Suspected illegal supply of prescription western drug by a Chinese medicine practitioner
7th Space Interactive, 20 March 2012

Hong Kong - The Department of Health (DH) alerted clients of a listed Chinese medicine practitioner (CMP), Yim Hing-yan, that if they have been supplied with a yellowish powder, they should stop using it because the powder was found to contain two undeclared western drugs, namely prednisone and chlorpheniramine. The appeal followed DH's investigation finding into an anonymous complaint from the public. There is no known related adverse incident report received thus far.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may help women with chronic pelvic pain
HealthCanal.com, 21 March 2012

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may have a role to play in the treatment of health problems linked to chronic pelvic pain (CPP), say experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in a new opinion paper. A recent Cochrane review found that acupuncture treatment significantly reduced menstrual symptoms compared to standard non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The authors say that while there is no compelling evidence that acupuncture or CHM are effective in the treatment of CPP, they may have roles to play in the treatment of dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, IBS and pelvic inflammatory disease. Women should be aware of the provisional nature of the evidence supporting these alternative approaches.

Hit the nail on the head
Macaubusiness.com, 21 March 2012

In Macau, the government is hiring internationally so that the company managing the upcoming Traditional Chinese Medicine Park in Hengqin Island can be up and running by mid-year. Echo Chan Keng Hong, coordinator of the government¡¦s Preparatory Office for the Park, said once a full team is established, the company will start looking for potential investors. The company will be responsible for setting up, operating and managing the industrial park. The Park is a 0.5 square kilometre site to be developed by both the Macau and Zhuhai governments. Macau has invested around RMB600 million (MOP758.5 million) in the Park.

Authorities warn of adverse reactions to TCM injection
7thBusinessghana.com, 24 March 2012

The State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) issued a warning regarding adverse reactions to a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) injection known as ¡§xiang dan¡¨ or ¡§fragrant pellet.¡¨ According to the SFDA statistics, 2,413 cases of adverse effects related to the injection were reported in China in 2011, most of which affected the patients' respiratory, cardiovascular and central nervous systems, as well as their skin. Of the cases, 180 were found to be severe in nature, resulting in allergic reactions, anaphylactic shock and breathing problems for some patients. The SFDA asked doctors and nurses to exercise caution in the use of the injection. The TCM injection, which dilates the veins, is widely used in TCM practice to treat chest pain, heart attacks and other conditions.

Recall of improperly labelled proprietary Chinese medicine
7thSpace Interactive, 27 March 2012

Hong Kong - The Department of Health (DH) orders the product holder of a proprietary Chinese medicine (pCm), Wong's Young Son Pharmaceuticals Limited, to recall from shelf of a pCm, Flu Fighter (registration no: HKP-05059), as it has been found to have been improperly labelled during market surveillance. The label on the package of the pCm showed its dosage should be four capsules taken by every four hours, which is above that registered with the Chinese Medicines Board. Besides, Radix Sophorae Tonkinensis, which is a Chinese herbal medicine (Chm) specified in Schedule 1 of the Chinese Medicine Ordinance, is also one of the active ingredients in the pCm formulary but found to be missing from the label.

Smoking cessation program involving acupuncture well received
7th Space Interactive, 28 March 2012

Hong Kong - Participants in a smoking cessation program involving the use of acupuncture have expressed their satisfaction with the service. The program is a joint effort by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Pok Oi Hospital (POH) and the Department of Health (DH). Free acupuncture and counselling services are provided to smokers by POH Chinese medicine practitioners in 18 community-based mobile clinics which cover more than 90 locations across Hong Kong. A total of 2,388 clients had used the smoking cessation service, 64% were male smokers while 36% were female smokers.

LCQ17: Chinese medicinal products containing ingredients from bear gall bladders
Info.gov.hk, 28 March 2012

In the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, the Hon Audrey Eu raised some questions about the Chinese medicinal products containing ingredients from bear gall bladders. She said that the practice of some mainland companies engaged in the research and development of bear bile products of collecting bear bile by extracting bile from live bears for making Chinese medicinal products has aroused discussion among the international media. She would like the Government inform the Council regarding the issue, and Dr York Chow, the Secretary for Food and Health, released a written reply.

Blues patients pin hopes on acupuncture
The Standard, 30 March 2012

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong have created an acupuncture method that involves stimulating acupoints of the head by passing a gentle electrical pulse through the needles. The novel treatment called Dense Cranial Electro-acupuncture Simulation was shown to rapidly reduce the severity of depressive symptoms, providing an additional option for major depressive suffers. The study involved 73 patients, aged 25 to 65, all long-time sufferers of major depressive disorder. Doctors' reports and patients' self-assessments revealed that nearly all the 36 patients reported a marked elevation in their mood, a rise in interest and enjoyment in their activities and a more optimistic view of the future. Studies by the Hospital Authority show that there are more than 300,000 depression patients in Hong Kong.

Urine-cooked eggs a spring delicacy in China city
Nydailynews.com, 30 March 2012

In the Eastern Chinese city of Dongyang, people eat ¡§virgin boy eggs¡¨ hard-boiled eggs marinated and simmered in urine, according to Reuters. Residents praise the local delicacy for its ability to prevent colds, increase circulation and boost vitality. Vendors collect buckets of boy's urine from local schools and homes in order to make the unusual broth. The eggs are soaked in the urine and then heated over a stove. Then they are taken out of the shells and put back in the urine to simmer. It takes an entire day to make a batch, and one egg sells for 23 cents, twice the price of a regular boiled egg.

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