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Call for herbal medicine law

25th October 2006

23102006_chineseherbshop.jpgChinese lawmakers have called for a law to enshrine the role of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which is already widely practised alongside Western medicine in the country's healthcare system.

The law would call on central and local governments to improve the structure of a TCM healthcare system and promote education in, and the scientific study of TCM. It was proposed by members of the Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee of China's parliament, the National People's Congress.

An online petition initiated recently by a professor at China's Central South University suggested that Chinese hospitals should only prescribe Western medicines, citing large quantities of fake and shoddy herbal remedies now swamping the country.

The proposal has stirred heated debate among Chinese people, with opponents -- including top government officials -- labeling it ridiculous and ignorant.

Instead, Beijing has announced that more support will be given to bolster the development of TCM.

TCM departments in China are estimated to receive nearly 300 million visits a year. The TCM industry, with a total production value of 81.03 billion yuan (10.1 billion U.S. dollars), accounted for a quarter of China's healthcare industry in 2005.

World Health Organization (WHO) statistics show that 54 countries in the world have formulated laws on traditional medical science.

China's TCM governing body has already announced it will establish a standardized TCM service network covering both urban and rural areas up to 2010, according to a government traditional Chinese medicine development plan.

The State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SATCM) recently publicized its eleventh five-year (2006-2010) development plan for traditional Chinese medicine.

The plan said traditional Chinese medicine will play a more important role in dealing with public health emergencies, in preventing and controlling severe diseases and in establishing new rural cooperative medical systems and urban community medical systems in the coming five years.

The plan provides for more professional training in traditional Chinese medicine and the protection of TCM through regulation. A unified traditional Chinese medicine production and prescription standard system will be established, during the 2006-2010 period.

Yang Yonghua, a professor with the Hunan Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said TCM was undeniably a mainstream medical treatment method in China.

He noted that 50 percent of patients suffering terminal stage cancer opt for traditional Chinese medicine treatments.

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