TCM gets more global acceptance

Updated: June 30, 2020 Source: China Daily
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Medical workers check the quality of a Chinese medicine product jointly released by AstraZeneca and Luye Pharma for cardiovascular diseases at a factory in Beijing in June. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

Recognizing the increasing role that traditional Chinese medicine has been playing in treating chronic diseases, United Kingdom-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has strengthened its TCM capability and will further promote the internationalization of the industry.

On June 7, AstraZeneca, the China Association of Chinese Medicine, the China Health Promotion Foundation and People's Daily jointly launched a TCM project for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health.

Specifically, the project aims to improve screening coverage of patients by boosting screening capabilities at both Chinese and Western medicine hospitals at multiple levels. It will also provide training programs for large hospitals and communities, as well as primary-care institutions such as township-level health centers, to help better take advantage of the integration of Chinese and Western medicine.

Zhang Yun, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said: "Due to the lack of sufficient and scientific evidence-based data, previously there were certain challenges in promoting TCM clinically as well as the integration of Chinese and Western medicine. With the launch of the project, evidence-based data of TCM used in the treatment of cardio-cerebrovascular diseases will continue to improve."

It will help practitioners of Western medicine better understand and recognize the value of TCM in the treatment of cardio-cerebrovascular diseases, thereby promoting the clinical integration of Chinese and Western medicine and benefiting more patients, Zhang said.

Michael Lai, general manager of AstraZeneca China, said the company will support research in evidence-based medicine, bring cutting-edge science and technology to TCM and facilitate the exchange of international experience.

"We will try to bridge traditional Chinese theories in medicine with globally aligned standards in clinical assessment and quality control. We hope to work with various stakeholders to jointly create a medical ecosystem that can support the modernization and internationalization of Chinese medicine and benefit more patients," he added.

This is not the first time that AstraZeneca stepped into the Chinese medical sector. In January 2019, it reached a partnership with Yantai, Shandong province-based Luye Pharma Group, becoming the first multinational pharmaceutical company in the world to establish a presence in the field of patented Chinese medicine.

Speaking on why the company got involved in Chinese medicine, Lai said regardless of whether one speaks of Chinese or Western medicine, as long as it has good efficacy and safety, it can be considered good medicine. Based on this concept, AstraZeneca formed a strategic partnership with Luye Pharma.

"Patients, especially Chinese patients, hold the concept that long-term intake of Western medicine comes with various side-effects. However, it is risky for chronic disease patients not to take their medicines regularly," he said.

"Under such circumstances, we realized that instead of fighting against patients' deep-rooted mindsets, we can offer them a Chinese-patented medicine that controls their disease and has few side-effects," he added.

Data from AstraZeneca showed that ever since the cooperation, the existing cardiovascular TCM product they jointly improved has benefited more than 4 million patients, and sales volume roughly surged by 40 percent from the level before cooperation.

"The good efficacy of the medicine and the fact that we conform to culture played a very important role," Lai said.

"Localization is a key aspect for multinational corporations. However, to truly implement localization, MNCs should fully understand the ecology of the Chinese market, and respect traditional Chinese culture. This is a prerequisite for us to effectively promote localization," he added.

AstraZeneca is confident about TCM, and believes that medicine from China can actually serve patients all over the world.

"In the future, we are open to cooperation with more local Chinese medicine companies, and also Western medicine companies, as long as the medicine is beneficial to patients," Lai said.

Zhang Boli, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and president of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said: "TCM is ushering in unprecedented opportunities, but three major challenges need to be addressed. First, we need more scientific evidence of clinical efficacy. Second, we need to use modern manufacturing approaches to ensure the high quality of medicines."

"Finally, we must standardize the cultivation and management processes to produce pollution-free Chinese medicine materials," he added.

Lai added that theoretical systems and assessment systems should be established so that TCM can be better understood and accepted and thereby better serve patients around the world.

Editor: 杜俊知