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Bear bile 'needed for medicines'

By Shan Juan and Sun Li (China Daily)

08:42, March 06, 2012

The nation's top traditional Chinese medicine official defended medicines made from bear bile, citing a lack of an effective substitute.

Wang Guoqiang, deputy minister of health and director of the State Administration of TCM, made the remarks on the sidelines of the annual session of the 11th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

"We should keep making good use of animal-based medicines while ensuring proper animal protection, which is also in line with the country's laws and regulations," he told China Daily.

This was the first time a top health official talked about the issue after accusations of animal cruelty were made, particularly online, against a Fujian-based drug company that makes medicine from bear bile and that applied to raise funds through an initial public offering.

The protection of animals is a hallmark of a civilized society, but "the practical situation has to be considered as well", Wang said.

"So far we have found no substitute for bear bile, which has proven medically effective and is irreplaceable," he said.

Cao Hongxin, a CPPCC member and former president of China Academy of Chinese Medicine Sciences, said bear bile can cleanse the liver, improve vision and relieve muscle pain.

Powdered bear bile sells for 4,000 yuan ($635) a kilogram.

"Animal-based drugs are an important part of TCM, in addition to herbal and mineral medications, and some people who are motivated by some other agenda might use the media hype and criticism of the issue to attack TCM" he said.

TCM medicines made from animal ingredients - such as tiger bone, musk, rhinoceros horn and antelope horn - have been used for thousands of years in China, Wang added.

"It's totally correct to heed animal welfare, and we are in fact carrying out research on substitutes such as animal-based drugs, whether natural or synthetic," he said.

"It's definitely no easy job and will take a long time," he said.

Some netizens, however, thought otherwise.

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Ron at 2012-03-06113.231.240.*
It does not take a genius to determine the value of these "drugs". You treat one group of patients with bear bile, Another group with synthetic bear bile and the 3rd group with saline. You can very easily prove that hurting bears or tigers is worthless and the government should make it illegel.

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