A system of standardization for the production of traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) is to be fully established by the end of 2010, according to Li Boxi, a researcher from the State Council's Development Research Center.
He announced the decision at the Sixth Asia Pacific Pharmaceuticals Roundtable earlier this week in Shanghai, a gathering of many international pharmaceutical giants and experts.
"In China, TCM now holds about one-fourth market share, but contributes approximately 40 percent of the profits of the pharmaceutical sector," said Li.
"If we can determine the active components in TCM and accord them with international standards, we will be able to promote them to a wider international market," said Jiang Zhenwei, general manager of the Shanghai Medicines and Health Products Import and Export Company.
The Chinese government is paying more attention to the innovation and development of TCM, and has included it in its next five-year plan, according to Li.
The first TCM pharmaceutical, a cancer treatment, will hopefully be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US and go into clinical testing early next year.
Samantha Du from Hutchison MediPharma, under Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa Limited, said that they plan to introduce many more medicines to the international market after this. "The biggest challenge for us to introduce TCM to the world is how to probe their exact chemical composition, and define their clear effects and side effects."
Hutchison MediPharma opened its new research center, focused on botanical medicine development, in Pudong of Shanghai at the end of last month, and has invested US$30 million into its first phase.
Hutchison Whampoa signed a preliminary agreement with Guangzhou Baiyunshan Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. to form a 50-50 medical joint venture in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, which will mainly involve research and development, production and marketing of TCM.
"Hutchison is exploring more joint work with big local Chinese medicine producers," said Du.
Two pharmaceutical giants, Roche and Pfizer, each established research and development centers and regional centers in Shanghai at the end of last month.
(China Daily November 4, 2004)