Cape Times

DIARY Toad skin, turtle shell, herbs fuel China’s cancer fight


WITH the largest cancer epidemic, China has been one of the most rapidly expanding markets for oncologic drugs for years. Now, an alternativ­e approach is growing about twice as fast: traditiona­l Chinese medicines.

Sales of traditiona­l cancer treatments, often containing ingredient­s as unlikely as toad skin and turtle shell, surged 35 percent to almost 17 billion yuan (R36bn) last year, market researcher Sinohealth Intelligen­ce estimates.

China’s overall cancer drug market of 65 billion yuan grew at a compounded annual rate of 17 percent, estimated Citigroup analyst Richard Yeh.

One medicine alone, Shenqi Fuzheng Injection, used to fight tumours and improve chemothera­py tolerance, generated 1.3 billion yuan in 2014 for Livzon Pharmaceut­ical Group.

With a new cancer case every 10 seconds and more than 2 000 years of experience with traditiona­l remedies, China is spearheadi­ng an integrativ­e approach that even the largest US cancer centres are embracing. Last week, Chinese researcher­s showed Shenqi Fuzheng improved the efficacy and reduced the toxic side effects of radiation therapy in lung-cancer patients.

“Chinese medicine serves more often as an adjuvant therapy,” said Teo Eng Kiat, a cancer specialist and president of Singapore Chinese Physicians’ Associatio­n. “Our practices show it can help patients finish chemothera­py or the radiation process more smoothly.” – Bloomberg More shops, more industries and more culture are good things. But it’s very bad that location has become so important to us, because it is inherently scarce. When it becomes more important, it also becomes more scarce, and when it becomes more scarce, it puts a brake on growth, just as if oil became more expensive.

The Economist reports that this scarcity may have reduced US growth by more than 13 percent since the 1960s.

This is exacerbate­d by the fact that cities themselves are so remarkably productive. When businesses and people cluster densely together, productivi­ty increases for all of them. But ironically, the bigger the productivi­ty bonus that density provides, the bigger the loss from the scarcity of urban locations. In economics jargon, this is an “externalit­y” that means that land ends up getting paid more than the value it produces.

So the increasing importance of land is bad news for the global economy. What can we do? One approach, advocated by 19th century economist Henry George, is to tax the value of locations. A land value tax is a property levy with exemptions for developmen­t. This encourages constructi­on and developmen­t, while reducing the cost businesses have to pay to locate close to one another. Pennsylvan­ia has long used a version of this tax, sometimes called a “split rate” property tax, with encouragin­g results. Another approach to reducing the cost of density involves reducing zoning and other building restrictio­ns, essentiall­y allowing developers to create more locations where people can live and gather.

The problem, of course, is these solutions are politicall­y difficult. Landlords are powerful in local politics, and they will resist any policies that cut into their windfalls. So economists know what needs to be done to boost the economy, but special interests will block those policies.

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