Quality of traditional Chinese medicine needs improvement: expert

It’s worth questioning why more Chinese consumers are buying medication made with Chinese herbal ingredients from other countries instead of China, the birthplace of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), an expert said recently.

A tour guide named Yu Lin said she has observed that foreign medications, such as bezoar sedative pills from Japan and heart pills from South Korea, are now on the shopping lists of many Chinese consumers going abroad.

Japan’s Kobayashi Pharmaceutical disclosed that due to the large buying power of Chinese consumers, its sale volume increased by five or six times in the second and third quarter of last year.

Zhao Chaoting, a TCM expert at Xinqiao Hospital, affiliated with the Third Military Medical University, said the pharmaceutical ingredients found in foreign medications are imported from China. After deep processing and packaging, they become foreign.

According to statistics, foreign medicines account for a large proportion of the Chinese market and China only owns five percent of the global TCM market compared with the 80 percent currently owned by Japan.

Experts believe the phenomenon reflects a lack of standardizing in TCM quality, as well as a weakness in patent registration, research and development in the Chinese industry.

You Hongtao, chairman of Pharscin Pharma based in southwest China’s Chongqing, said the largest advantage of foreign medications is that they are made adhering to strict quality standards, while Chinese patent medicines are often regarded as unqualified when they are exported.

Foreign medical scholars and drug manufacturers put technological research and development above all things. For instance, German manufacturers can turn gingko leaves, which they buy for a few yuan for 500 grams, into hypotensive and lipid-lowering drugs worth more than 100 yuan.

In 2017, Chinese ministries launched key TCM service and trade programs to explore new TCM development modes.

Industry insiders suggest that specific policies should be launched to encourage Chinese pharma companies to increase research and development, enhance patent awareness and add to technological content of their products.