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13.12.2013

A worker prepares traditional Chinese herbal medicines at Beijing’s Capital Medical University Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. The British government recently announced it is looking at integrating traditional Chinese medicine into its national health service.
While the practice of acupuncture is regulated in five provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland — only B.C. In the West, acupuncture receives most of the glory and recognition when TCM is considered, but Chinese herbals are an equally important aspect of this long-standing medical system. The problem is that herbs selected by a TCM professional are chosen based on each individual’s patterns of whole body health and imbalance. Nevertheless, researchers are doing their work, looking for ways to clarify herb effectiveness.
Though our sweet and salty-seeking taste buds are unaccustomed to bitter flavours, getting past the “ick factor” of the taste of Chinese herbs — especially if you are dealing with digestive, skin, or immune system imbalances — may be worth the effort. Melissa Carr is a registered doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, caring for patients in an integrative medicine clinic in Vancouver.
The MHRA admits there is a€?no entirely reliable way of telling whether a traditional Chinese medicine is safe at presenta€™ because a€?standards of safety, quality and product informationa€™ in Britain are so erratic. In 1998, Sandra, a mother of six from Hove, East Sussex, consulted a Chinese herbalist about her psoriasis. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. An application to sell a well-known Chinese cold and flu remedy in Britain has sent a positive signal for manufacturers of traditional Chinese medicine looking to enter European markets, but challenges remain, industry experts say. The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency received a request to approve Isatis Cold and Flu Relief, based on the Chinese product Ban Lan Gen, in June.
Ban Lan Gen, which is derived from the root of a flowering plant called woad, or Isatis tinctoria, has been a popular flu remedy in China for many years. The MHRA, which could make its decision in 210 days, is responsible for ensuring the safety of medicines and medical devices on sale in the UK. TCM, which has evolved over 4,000 years, relies largely on patented and herbal medications to prevent illness and help fight ailments, as well as relieve pain and restore balance - the ying and the yang - to the body. Prior to its latest application, Phynova obtained the first MHRA approval for a TCM product to be sold over the counter in Britain. The active ingredient in the tablets is a plant called Siegesbeckia orientalis, which is prepared by Purapharm Pharmaceutical Co in Nanning, capital of China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and shipped to Surapharm Services Ltd in Britain for manufacture. Phynova, founded in 2002, specializes in developing new medicines and registering them with the authorities. Xiangxue specializes in the development and modernization of TCM products and is the first company to establish a TCM research and development center outside of China, opening a base in Cambridge. The application of Isatis Cold and Flu Relief sends a healthy message for companies making TCM products, yet industry expert Robert Verkerk warns that obstacles may stand in the way of similar applications.
As Miller explains, there are technical difficulties involved with manufacturing TCM to the EU Good Manufacturing Practice standards as well as many other points to consider, such as passing the toxicological assessment. Unlike Western medicines, which normally contain a single chemical compound, TCM have on average 20 ingredients, and each ingredient may contain several compounds. However, "from our experience, the MHRA has been helpful in guiding us through the application process", Miller adds.
An unusually heavy downpour hit Durban for two days before the BRICS summit's debut on African soil, but interest for a better platform for emerging markets were still sparked at the summit. A group of experts has been tasked with investigating whether there is sufficient evidence that the herbs involved in TCM are both safe and effective enough to make them available on their national health benefits program, alongside western medicines. Just as acupuncture points are selected by considering the whole person, not just the symptoms, so too are herbs. Thus, one Crohn’s patient may be given a different combination of herbs than another Crohn’s patient. The European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences published a study by Li et al demonstrating that berberine, a major constituent in the Chinese herbs huang lian, huang bai, huang qin, long dan cao, and ku shen, can help prevent the intestinal wall cellular damage that occurs with inflammation.


The MHRA has investigated other cases where patients have fallen ill or died after being sold Chinese herbal potions and pills that either contained, or were contaminated with, illegal substances, such as poisonous plants, asbestos, heavy metals such as mercury and even powerful Western medicines (to boost their potency).
Phynova, a life sciences company based in Oxford, submitted the application in collaboration with Xiangxue Pharmaceuticals Co Ltd, a leader in the modernization of TCM. Unlike Western medicines, which often contain a single chemical compound, TCM have on average 20 ingredients.
In 2003, it made headlines when people began using it en masse during the SARS epidemic, and again several years later during outbreaks of swine flu and avian flu. The agency drafted the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Product Directive, released in 2004 to protect consumers and ensure treatments meet high standards.
In the UK alone, consumers each year spend almost 400 million pounds ($630 million; 561 million euros) on cold and flu remedies, and industry insiders say the demand for natural remedies is stronger now than ever.
Thanks to its collaboration with Phynova, it is also the first Chinese pharmaceutical company to have access to Europe's lucrative over-the-counter market.
In the West, we often ask questions like, “Which herb can treat headaches?” or “That herb helped my friend’s joint pain. Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Bensoussan et al had 116 patients take either a Chinese herbal formula or placebo over 16 weeks while being evaluated by a TCM herbalist and a gastroenterologist. The senior civil servant from Essex has had to give up her job, as she spends three days a week in hospital undergoing dialysis.
A study of 11 herbal eczema creams by Kinga€™s College, London, found eight contained powerful steroids not suitable for children. A few years ago, the South Korean authorities destroyed 871 tonnes of imported Chinese herbal medicine ingredients because of excessive levels of toxins.
Its operation in China grew after it invested in Botanic Century Co, a life sciences company in Beijing, in 2006.
The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Should I take it?” Research investigates the results of a consistent amount of X given to a group of individuals with Y problem to see how many gain positive results as measured by Z. Last year, MHRA researchers found that a Chinese a€?herbal Viagraa€™ sold in the UK contains dangerous levels of hidden pharmaceuticals.
She started vomiting every day and suffered from blinding headaches and giddiness, which could last for days. Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. As the Old Bailey heard last month, the remedy shea€™d been sold contained aristolochia, a Chinese herb that should only have been given under prescription when she first bought it, and which was later banned.A It is a shocking story, but even more shocking is that it almost exactly parallels the experience of catering manager Sandra Stay. Tests on the product, Jia Yi Jian, revealed huge doses of two drugs prescribed by doctors for obesity and impotence. Her GP referred her to a specialist, but her illness confounded doctors for weeks, until tests revealed her kidneys were severely damaged. The levels were high enough to cause serious side-effects, including heart and blood pressure problems.
Traditional Chinese medicine has been assiduously developed over more than two millennia and Western medicine is increasingly delving into its secrets. Researchers for the Arthritis Research Campaign recently warned that a Chinese herbal medicine for rheumatism contains thunder god vine, which is extremely poisonous if not extracted properly.
The German drugs giant Merck, for instance, has been studying Chinese herbs to develop pioneering cancer drugs.
Trials of an extract of one herb by the company Hutchison China MediTech show significant promise for ulcerative colitis.
Studies by the respected Cochrane Collaboration report that Chinese herbs may help prevent diabetes, relieve Alzheimera€™s and treat endometriosis. It was my social life as well as my work.a€™ When she read of Patriciaa€™s case, she says she a€?felt terriblea€™. This is especially true when their quality and use is still not properly regulated, as Sandra Stay discovered to her cost.


In Sandraa€™s case, the owners of the clinic were taken to court twice, but were ultimately acquitted because, although officials had found the herb on their shelves, it could not be proved that they had sold it to Sandra. The jury also accepted that the store had taken measures to ensure its medicines did not contain aristolochia. In Patriciaa€™s case, the Chinese herbalist Ying a€?Susana€™ Wu received a two-year conditional discharge after admitting selling dangerous pills. Judge Jeremy Roberts said that, as the sale of traditional Chinese medicines was unregulated by any professional body, there was no evidence that Ying knew of the potential harm. As well as the quality of the remedies, another concern is the qualifications of the practitioners and their ability to diagnose.
When we visited ten Chinese herbalists complaining of classic migraine symptoms, half of them diagnosed problems, from a€?manhooda€™ difficulties to a€?dampa€™ or a€?fire overdosea€™. Dr Debbie Shaw, a toxicologist who is the head of the Chinese Medicine Advisory Service at Guya€™s Hospital, has studied 40 case reports of liver damage caused by herbal medicine. Back in 2000, the House of Lords Committee on Science and Technology called for statutory regulation of practitioners and to make them accountable for the quality of medicines they prescribe. Instead, ministers launched a consultation process with interested parties in 2004, which found that 98.5 per cent of responses were in favour of statutory regulation.
But instead of acting upon this, ministers launched another consultation process last year. Of this latest consultation, a Department of Health spokesperson says: a€?We received between 5,000 and 6,000 responses and we are working through these to see what the way forward should be. We wona€™t pre-empt the outcome, but safety will be our main concern in making decisions.a€™ The results are expected this summer. The practitioners say that the need for action is now urgent, but given the Governmenta€™s foot-dragging, they are worried and sceptical. Michael McIntyre, chairman of the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association, has criticised the Governmenta€™s a€?abject failurea€™ to provide regulation of herbal medicines sold in Britain. All the professional organisations affected are keen for laws that help them improve safety. As far back as 2005, the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has more than 700 members, warned that a€?dodgy and fakea€™ practitioners were damaging the image of Chinese medicine. Under EU rules that came into force last April, by 2011 all medicinal herbs must be officially certified as safe before being sold. The regulations aim to ensure quality control, reporting of adverse effects and proper labelling of contents.
The regulations also ban unregulated health practitioners from commissioning or formulating their own medicines. This would effectively put thousands of Chinese health practitioners out of business, no matter if they have been working safely and ethically for years, says Emma Farrant, the secretary of the 450-member-strong Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine. The solution, says Farrant, is to introduce professional regulation for Chinese herbal practitioners before the 2011 deadline. Put simply, professional regulation will protect patients; it will also protect the legitimate practitioner. However, this is being opposed by some leading doctors and scientists, including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Medical Schools Council, because it may give Chinese practitioners an air of authority they consider unmerited. This professional reservation - and government dithering - means it may be a while before we finally unravel this particular Chinese puzzle. That will bring no comfort to malpractice victims such as Patricia or Sandra; nor will it safeguard the livelihoods of Chinese herbalists who practise safely and ethically - and nor, ultimately, will it do anything to help us, the poor patients stuck in the middle.



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