Shot in the arm for alternative medicine
From previous page areas’’ for the institute to look at, but that initially it would divide its work into four key steps. The first of these would be working out the most pressing priorities for research, to ensure limited funds were not being dissipated by duplicated effort.
‘‘ We have a large number of relatively strong but disconnected researchers across the country that compete for the small funding available,’’ Professor Bensoussan said. ‘‘ We need to identify national priorities in this area, where we think the opportunities exist, and to co-ordinate research.
‘‘ We hope by the end of this year we will have determined the kinds of priorities where the best investments can be made.’’
The second key step for the NICM would be to increase collaboration and networks between different research centres and individuals, and links with researchers in the traditional medical fields. The other steps would be to increase and nurture the pool of expertise in the complementary medicine field, and finally — once results start flowing through — to disseminate research findings to health professionals and the community.
Professor Bensoussan said that Chinese public hospitals routinely used a large number of herbal medicines to treat patients, even for serious illnesses such as cancers, liver disease and kidney disease.
The herbal treatment artemisia — which has been developed into powerful antimalarial treatments — was just one example of successful alternative treatments.
‘‘ What we need to do is get a handle on some of these forms of medicine that are available overseas, and look closely at building up evidence around these medicines to see whether they can be used in our own population,’’ he said.
‘‘ There are indigenous medicines available all around the world, and what we need to do is look at some of the claims around these medicines, so we can see how they might be incorporated into conventional healthcare.
‘‘ For some of these medicines, the evidence will stack up, but for others it won’t.’’
The UWS CompleMED Research Centre already has a herbal analysis laboratory, and will soon have a herbal pharmacology laboratory which together can identify compounds in herbal medicines and test their effects.
Just this week CompleMED announced a trial to test if the Chinese herbal formula Jiangtang Xiaozhi is an effective treatment for pre-diabetes, the reduced tolerance of or ability to metabolise sugar in the blood. Although pre-diabetes can exist undetected for years, and by the time it progresses to type 2 diabetes, about 50 per cent of patients will already have tissue damage.