Experts Call for Protection of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Experts at a national meeting on traditional Chinese medicine development reached a consensus Sunday that it is an urgent job to protect intellectual property rights of traditional Chinese medicine.

They also called for research into a patent application strategy, the establishment of a fund for international patents and active participation in making WTO rules for protecting the intellectual property rights of traditional Chinese medicine.

Hong Jing, a research fellow with the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said currently 97.4 percent of the chemical medicine produced in China is modeled after foreign products. And this will come to an end after China enters the World Trade Organization.

Then the development of traditional Chinese medicine, which is unique in the world, will be strategically important for Chinese pharmaceutical enterprises to produce new medicine, Hong said.

"Only when we attach enough importance to an integrated protection of the intellectual property rights of traditional Chinese medicine, can the industry grow strong and become mature," she added.

In China more than 12,000 kinds of animals, plants and minerals are used in making traditional Chinese medicine, which has been proven effective for many functional diseases and diseases in the immune system, among others. Acupuncture and qigong are also world famous.

70% International Herbal Medicine Market Occupied by Foreign Companies

Traditional Chinese medicine also witnesses a growing international market as the European Union is making laws on it and the United States has approved clinic research into compounds with herbal medicine ingredients, Hong said.

Foreign companies on the other hand have benefited greatly from the free use of China's formulas of traditional Chinese medicine, she said.

It is estimated that foreign companies have occupied over 70 percent of international proprietary herbal medicine market. Some even sell their products to China.

In contrast, Chinese medical industry has just realized the importance of intellectual property rights, Hong said. Thus measures must be taken to strengthen protection as soon as possible.

Traditional Chinese medicine accounts one fifth of China's medicine market, with the output value of patent medicine reaching 38.5 billion yuan (US$4.67 billion) a year.

Bright Future in Store for Traditional Herbal Medicine

China's traditional herbal medicine should have a bright future in the 21st century, Chinese medical experts said during a recent symposium in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province.

According to figures released during the symposium, the global trade volume of herbal medicine totaled US$16.4 billion in 1998 and is showing annual double-digit growth.

This demonstrates that more people worldwide have accepted the healing powers of herbal medicine, the experts said.

During the meeting, some experts pointed out that modern diseases are no longer easily treatable using Western medicine, which can lead to a body becoming immune if used for a long period of time. In addition, some types of Western medicine have many side effects that prompt some patients to seek alternative treatment.

Chinese traditional herbal medicine, with its limited side effects and long-term application, has proven to be more effective in treating chronic and difficult diseases, the experts said. But with the spread of knowledge about herbal medicines and more media coverage of successful stories, traditional medicine is gaining more favor worldwide.

(People’s Daily November 26, 2001)

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