Think­ing lo­cal in go­ing global

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By SELENA LI in Hong Kong selena@chi­nadai­

The gov­ern­ment of Hong Kong con­tin­ues to push for the in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of its tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine (TCM) in­dus­try, with this year’s Pol­icy Ad­dress propos­ing a Chi­nese medicine testing cen­ter to fur­ther boost the com­pet­i­tive­ness of a “Made in Hong Kong” in­ter­na­tional bench­mark.

The Depart­ment of Health launched the Hong Kong Chi­nese Ma­te­ria Med­ica Stan­dards (HKCMMS) project in 2002, and has es­tab­lished qual­ity stan­dards for 200 Chi­nese Ma­te­ria Med­ica. The Latin term trans­lates as “med­i­cal ma­te­ri­als.”

The pro­posed testing cen­ter, said a depart­ment spokesman, will “study the fea­si­bil­ity of ex­pe­dit­ing the set­ting of ref­er­ence stan­dards for crude herbs or to in­clude the study of de­coc­tion pieces in the HKCMMS project, to meet the needs of the Chi­nese medicine in­dus­try and the public.”

The stan­dards, the depart­ment be­lieves, can be used by the Chi­nese medicine in­dus­try as ref­er­ence points for safety and qual­ity of ma­te­ri­als.

Herbs are sim­ply medic­i­nal foods, and as a re­sult of mil­len­nia of study by TCM prac­ti­tion­ers, a very ex­ten­sive range of health con­di­tions are known to re­spond well to herbal ther­apy.

How­ever, the mod­ern medicine in­dus­try ques­tions TCM, brand­ing it as not val­i­dated through sci­en­tific process, and many want the same stan­dards to ap­ply to TCM and West­ern medicine.

The se­lected herbs in the Ma­te­ria Med­ica Stan­dards, in­clud­ing Radix Gin­seng and Cordy­ceps, are com­monly used in the lo­cal com­mu­nity and com­mand a high eco­nomic value in the mar­ket. But they also draw in­ter­na­tional con­cerns over their safety and qual­ity.

Growth in de­mand for TCM herbal or tra­di­tional prod­ucts in Hong Kong was spurred in the past five years by ris­ing im­mi­gra­tion from the main­land and in­creas­ing “shop­ping tourism” due to higher taxes on the main­land, says mar­ket re­searcher and data provider Euromon­i­tor.

Euromon­i­tor also notes that Hong Kong is wit­ness­ing grow­ing con­sumer aware­ness of TCM, with greater in­ter­est in pack­aged pro­pri­etary Chi­nese medicine prod­ucts. TCM prod­ucts worth HK$ 3.25 bil­lion were sold in Hong Kong in 2013.

Cur­rent reg­u­la­tions man­date that pro­pri­etary Chi­nese medicines must first be reg­is­tered by the Chi­nese Medicines Board be­fore they can be im­ported, man­u­fac­tured and sold in Hong Kong.

“A lot of TCM prod­ucts are un­der scru­tiny of Good Man­u­fac­tur­ing Prac­tices. It is a qual­ity as­sur­ance sys­tem widely adopted by the drug man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try world­wide,” said Den­nis Au, co-founder of the Con­duct Chi­nese Medicine clin­ics and gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Hong Kong As­so­ci­a­tion of Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine.

Pack­aged TCM herbs and col­or­ful in­for­ma­tional posters help in­crease the ap­peal of treat­ments.

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