SCIO briefing on the science-based treatment of severe COVID-19 cases

The State Council Information Office held a press conference Monday afternoon in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province, to brief the media and answer questions concerning the science-based treatment of severe COVID-19 cases. March 21, 2020


Thank you very much, I'm from China Global Television Network. Could you please introduce the latest situation of the combined method of treating COVID-19 patients with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and modern medicine? Also, what kinds of patients are generally being treated with TCM methods? And how effective have they been? Thank you. 

Du Bin:

I'll take the question. I think some of my colleagues might add some comments after my words. It's my belief that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is both familiar and unfamiliar to our practitioners of Western medicine. Every day in Wuhan, we're working together with our colleagues from the traditional Chinese medicine department. It seems to me, at least in my mind, that traditional Chinese medicine works quite well in patients with mild disease and in those who have been recovering from critical illness. However, I do notice that people are suspicious of the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine. I would say that TCM and Western medicine do not share the same philosophy. They have quite different philosophies. They have quite different evaluation systems for efficacy. 

For example, whenever we have the chance to test the efficacy of a specific medication in Western medicine, we will try to separate patients into different groups, and give those who are assigned randomly to the experimental group or the study group a specific drug at a fixed dose and fixed duration. Then we try to interpret any difference between the experimental group and the control group with regards to clinical outcomes as a manifestation or an evidence of the efficacy or safety of the specific drug. However, this is not the case for traditional Chinese medicine. From my own observation, when working with the TCM practitioners, I noticed that even for patients with quite similar appearances from my personal point of view, they would prescribe quite different medications with different doses every day. This makes the evaluation system futile or invalid. 

So it's very hard for us to assess the efficacy and safety of TCM from the Western medicine point of view. But my belief is that we should respect each other. We should know that both Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine have their own strengths and weaknesses, and we should learn from each other. We also encourage our colleagues in the TCM sector to adopt our system of evaluation or assessment in order to let not only us but also the international community understand what they're doing. Thanks.

Xi Yanchun:

Does anyone want to add some words? 

Wu Dong:

I do have some comments. First of all, I agree with Professor Du that we don't have panacea here. We don't have any specific anti-virus drug or medication that has been proved effective. But from a perspective of gastroenterology, which is my specialty, I would like to say that at least in some cases, traditional Chinese medicine seems work well. Because we know that for some patients in ICU, their bowel movements just stop, and their abdomens are quite distended. In several cases, the condition is severe enough to force us to stop enteral nutrition, which we all know is essential for the patient to recover. So we use TCM to treat this type of patients. I would say that they have a very good laxative effect, which enables us to continue to feed them. Thank you. 

Xi Yanchun:

Ok. Next question, please. The gentleman in the first row in the middle area, who, I guess, is from India. 

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