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Tighter regulations to ensure TCM's safety

By Shan Juan (China Daily)

09:46, December 12, 2011

BEIJING - China will strengthen the regulation of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to ensure its quality and to assist the country's plans to provide universal healthcare.

The initiative in the national drug safety plan approved by the State Council came after TCM scandals, such as where dealers smoked TCM raw materials with sulfur to make them look better. Such scandals aroused public concerns over safety.

In response to those concerns, the production and processing of Chinese herbal medicines will be standardized in the next five years, according to the plan. A system to track these medicines to their origin will also be established.

"Supervision over TCMs, particularly the medicinal materials and decoction by preparing the contents of drugs separately, has always been weak in China, and this might affect the efficacy of drugs and put consumers' health at risk," said Huang Jianyin, deputy secretary-general of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies.

In June, the Hong Kong Department of Health publicized a suspected case of Chinese herbal medicine poisoning involving a 50-year-old local woman, who had taken a self-prepared herbal decoction for easing the symptoms of menopause.

She developed a dry mouth and blurred vision, symptoms indicating anticholinergic poisoning, about half an hour after taking the herbal decoction on June 16, said a release issued by the department.

Investigations found the contaminated herbs were from Guangzhou but the source of the contamination has not yet been determined.

Contamination from materials such as heavy metals, pesticides and aflatoxin residue have been detected in TCM medicines from time to time, Huang said.

Such problems have blocked more than 60 percent of TCM exports from being sent abroad, industry analysis shows.

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