TCM set for global resurgence

By Zhang Hongpei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/20 0:36:58

Development fast tracked as herbal remedies prove effective in the treatment of virus

Two employees in a TCM store in Dongyang, East China's Zhejiang Province, measure herbal medicine on October 31, 2018. File Photo: VCG

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), a time-honored medicine practice in China, is vying for rejuvenation amid the outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, and its sales in overseas markets are also likely to be on the rise, industry insiders told the Global Times.

Since it has proven effective in the treatment of patients infected by COVID-19, which has killed more than 2,000 people so far in China, TCM has realized its potential value and become more accepted by the public.

Renowned Chinese respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan highlighted studies on TCM in the battle against the virus during a press conference held on Tuesday in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province.

The herbal prescription "Pneumonia No.1" on January 23 proved effective in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in the province, according to Zhong.

Li Yu, an official with the National Administration of TCM, on Monday said the decoction "Qingfei Paidutang" has been used to treat 701 confirmed cases in 10 provinces, of which 130 have been cured and discharged. Li said the decoction was recommended to medical institutions across the nation on February 6, following the data analysis of 214 cases.

More than 3,100 medical personnel from over 630 TCM hospitals across the country have been sent to aid Central China's Hubei Province, which has been hardest hit by the epidemic, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Industry observers said that TCM has played a key role in treating the infectious disease given its current effects, and that it shows potential as no targeted medicine or vaccine has yet been developed.

Chinese health officials have called for stronger cooperation between TCM and Western medicine, to make a combined effort to prevent and treat the disease.

In the latest version of the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment scheme released on Wednesday, a specific section details TCM treatment during a patient's medical observation, clinical treatment and recovery periods.

In an industry guideline issued by the State Council last year, it was pointed out that boosting the development of TCM is significant to upholding the principle of equal emphasis on traditional Chinese and Western medicines, and to developing a healthcare model with Chinese characteristics, featuring the complementary and coordinated development of TCM and Western medicine.

It is expected that the whole TCM sector will be boosted by its performance in the fight against the virus, Zhang Ziran, vice president of the China Association of TCM, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Liu Zhifeng, board secretary of the Wuhan-based Jiuzhoutong Medicine Group, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the company has been working around the clock to provide decoction production and delivery services for seven fangcang makeshift hospitals where patients suffering from mild symptoms are being treated, as well as for other quarantine venues.

"As some firms have resumed work after the Spring Festival break, there is surging demand for the therapy as a preventative measure. Many local firms have placed orders for the decoction to distribute to their employees," Liu said.

Construction workers on makeshift hospital sites have also been taking the medicine to prevent infection by strengthening their immune system, said Liu.

Thus far, the company has received orders for more than 1.6 million hand-size packages of the decoction to be used for the prevention of further spread, as well as 200,000 packages to be used for patient treatment in hospitals.

"It seems that the prevention method of taking TCM has become more accepted by the general public. That is a good sign for the promotion of the concept, 'Treat before disease comes,' which was popular after the outbreak of SARS in 2003," a veteran industry observer based in Beijing told the Global Times, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The herbal medicines were widely used in China in conjunction with Western methods during the SARS outbreak.

On the stock market, TCM-related shares have rallied. The TCM sector has been at a low-value level in the A-share market and its investment value should be noted, according to analysis by Guojin Securities.

TCM's recent application in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 has brought strategic opportunities for the traditional therapy, the investment bank said.

Apart from a domestic boost, it is likely that TCM's exports to overseas markets will improve, especially among East Asian and Southeast Asian markets where the epidemic has also been spreading.

Liu Yang, a manager at the administration department of Anhui Xiehecheng Chinese Herb Ltd, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the company has so far received no orders from its international customers, but he thinks that once TCM's effectiveness in the treatment of COVID-19 is acknowledged in those markets, "orders will naturally come."

Based in Bozhou, East China's Anhui Province, the firm is engaged in the cultivation of medicinal materials, the processing of Chinese herbal medicine decoctions, and imports and exports. Its TCM products are exported to markets including South Korea, Southeast Asian countries and European countries, where there are large Chinese communities.

As of press time on Thursday, there were 705 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Japan, the highest number outside of China. There were 84 cases in Singapore and 104 in South Korea.

The Japanese government is making preparations for clinical trials using HIV medication to treat the virus as soon as possible, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing an official.

"We are now closely monitoring the virus' spread in foreign countries to estimate the trend," Liu Yang said.

"Asian countries tend to believe in TCM, so if their authorities can promote its application to fighting the disease, I think our exports will go up," he added.

Sales of herbal materials and processed products have increased significantly for the firm, with a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent, hitting $35 million in 2019, according to Liu Yang.

Data from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Medicine & Health Products showed that China's TCM export value has been increasing since China joined the WTO in 2001, recording roughly $4 billion in 2018, up 7.39 percent year-on-year. The US has been the biggest export destination, followed by Japan and China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.


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