TCM prod­uct nam­ing reg­u­la­tions could cost man­u­fac­tur­ers bil­lions

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By GUO KAI guokai@chi­

Thou­sands of tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine prod­ucts face hav­ing their names changed due to a draft reg­u­la­tion is­sued last month by the China Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, with the dead­line for sub­mis­sions on the guide­line fall­ing on Wed­nes­day.

By May last year, about 1,000 peo­ple had left com­ments on the e-shop­ping site Ama­zon prais­ing May­in­g­long Musk He­m­or­rhoids Oint­ment Cream, de­scrib­ing it as “fan­tas­tic” and “like ap­ply­ing rose-col­ored ice cream to your bum”.

How­ever, it is one of thou­sands of prod­ucts that falls foul of the draft nam­ing rules, which state that TCM prod­ucts should not be named af­ter peo­ple, places or com­pa­nies, or use su­per­sti­tious or vul­gar words.

Prod­uct names should also not in­clude words that re­fer to phar­ma­col­ogy, anatomy, phys­i­ol­ogy, pathol­ogy or ther­a­peu­tics, such as “anti-in­flam­ma­tory” and “can­cer”, the draft guide­line states.

Over­stat­ing, boast­ful and un­re­al­is­tic words should also not be used in the names, such as ling (very ef­fec­tive), sux­iao (quick act­ing) or yuzhi (made by em­peror or­der).

The reg­u­la­tion would ap­ply to both old and new TCM prod­ucts, mean­ing the new pol­icy would af­fect thou­sands of prod­ucts. More than 2,000 prod­ucts alone use the word ling, ac­cord­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s data­base.

Li Jin, qual­ity di­rec­tor of Yun­nan Baiyao Group — a TCM man­u­fac­turer based in South­west China’s Yun­nan prov­ince — said that the com­pany has seven TCM prod­uct se­ries that use the com­pany name, as well as tens of other prod­ucts that use other soonto-be-banned words.

“If Yun­nan Baiyao had to change the name of its prod­ucts, its brand and rep­u­ta­tion es­tab­lished over the past 115 years would be dam­aged, and fi­nan­cial losses might ex­ceed 10 bil­lion yuan ($1.46 bil­lion),” Li said.

Bei­jing Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Pro­fes­sion As­so­ci­a­tion Vi­cePres­i­dent Fu Li­jia said that name changes would also re­quire changes to pack­ag­ing, in­tro­duc­tion book­lets and other re­lated prod­ucts, which would be ex­tremely costly. Com­pa­nies would then have to in­vest more in pro­mot­ing their newly named prod­ucts.

Liu Yue, an el­e­men­tary school teacher in Yun­nan’s Kun­ming, said that peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with names such as Yun­nan Baiyao and May­in­g­long oint­ment, adding that if the names of prod­ucts changed, buy­ers might feel un­easy about pur­chas­ing them.

China has been reg­u­lat­ing the names of TCM prod­ucts since the 1990s to ad­dress is­sues such as dif­fer­ent prod­ucts hav­ing the same name.

An in­dus­try in­sider said some com­pa­nies use words in prod­uct names which over­state the ef­fects of the prod­uct or mis­lead buy­ers, es­pe­cially se­nior cit­i­zens.

Fu said it is nec­es­sary to have reg­u­la­tions ad­dress­ing the nam­ing of TCM prod­ucts. “In the past, names of TCM prod­ucts were ap­proved by lo­cal gov­ern­ments, with no universal stan­dard.”

Chen Qiguang, a re­search fel­low at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, said that us­ing names of peo­ple and places for TCM prod­ucts is a com­mon prac­tice, which shows re­spect to their con­tri­bu­tions.

Zheng Jin, head of Yun­nan’s TCM man­age­ment bu­reau, said that the names of TCM prod­ucts should be reg­u­lated, but that tra­di­tional brands should also be re­spected, adding that the new reg­u­la­tions should only ap­ply to new TCM prod­ucts.


Tourists run through lines of wind­mills at a cul­tural in­no­va­tion park in Guiyang, Guizhou prov­ince, on Thurs­day. A to­tal of 120,000 wind­mills are dis­played at the park to mark the In­ter­na­tional Wind­mill Tourism Fes­ti­val, a two-day event that starts on Satur­day.


A worker han­dles tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine at a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany’s work­shop in Bozhou, An­hui prov­ince.

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