To Establish HK as a Chinese Medicine Internationall Center

  Council,  MCMIA

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Changes in China

During the past dozen years, the Central Government’s attitude and policies towards CM has gone through a series of dramatic and pro-active changes with the tempo being accelerated in the last 5 years. These policies will lead to a complete makeover of the landscape for CM in the coming decades.

In 1996, several Central Government ministries and committees issued a policy paper called “An Action Plan for the Scientific and Industrial Modernization of Chinese Medicines中藥現代化科技產業行動計劃” to call attention to the need to modernize CM. In the following year, the State Council formally called for the “Realization of the Modernization of Chinese Medicines實現中藥現代化” as part of its reform and development for healthcare. These documents together set the stage for intense discussions and coalescence of efforts among the academia, government and industry on the path to modernize CM.

Good Pharmaceutical Practices

GAP – Good Agricultural Practice

GEP – Good Extraction Practice

GMP – Good Manufacturing Practice

GLP – Good Laboratory Practice

GCP – Good Clinical Practice

GSP – Good Sales/Supply Practice

The subsequent implementation of the “Drug Administration Law of the People’s Republic of China (Amendment)《中華人民共和國藥品管理法》(修訂)” in 2000 and the “Regulations for Implementation of the Drug Administration Law of the PRC 《藥品註冊管理辦法》” in 2002 provided additional impetus to modernize CM by putting CM on the same level of regulatory rigor as western drugs. This is further reinforced by the progressive introduction of Good Pharmaceutical Practice Guidelines (see table) for both CM and western drugs. This is a critical step to modernize CM that lends credibility to their quality ¾ a prerequisite for the internationalization process.

In Fall 2002, seven State Council ministries and committees released a formal announcement called the “Guidance for the Development of the Modernization of Chinese Medicines (2002-10)《中藥現代化發展綱要 (2002-10年)》” which put China on a committed course to engage in modernizing CM with the necessary infrastructural supports.

In 2006, at the launching of the 11th Five-Year-Plan, MOST (Ministry of Science and Technology) and SATCM (State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine) jointly reached out to the international medical and scientific communities to seek their collaborations to conduct research projects on numerous aspects of CM. This plan was delineated in “Guideline for International Scientific Cooperation in Chinese Medicine (2006-20) 《中醫藥國際科技合作規劃綱要(2006-20年)》”. This document clearly demonstrated the Central Government’s confidence in opening up CM for the world to participate and its serious intent to internationalize it.

This was followed suit by the “Guideline for the Development of Chinese Medicine Innovations (2006-20) 《中醫藥創新發展規劃綱要(2006-20年)》”[See Appendix III] in 2007, which laid out a comprehensive plan with specific goals to encourage innovative developments of CM both as pharmaceuticals and as a practice. This document is an important blueprint to transform CM from a traditional discipline to a modern, scientific discipline, providing, for the first time, a channel connecting it to the western medical sciences.

On July 7, 2007, 17 ministries and committees jointly launched a 3-year, 90-city “TCM China Tour中醫中藥中國行” under the leadership of then Vice Premier Wu Yi 吳儀to demonstrate the State Council’s resolve to support CM and to propagate CM knowledge across the whole country. This was followed by the formal incorporation of the CM maxim and practice of “pre-disease treatment 治未病” into the national healthcare system in a sumit forum organzied by SATCM on January 25, 2008.

On July 16, 2007, SATCM and HKTDC co-organized a symposium in HK to discuss how the Mainland and HK could jointly establish and develop the CM service industry in China. On September 9, 2007, at the 11th International Investment & Trade meeting in Xiamen [See Appendix IV], the vice minister for trade, Yi Jian Guo魏建國noted that HK is the stepping stone for the globalization of Chinese corporations.

These symposiums pointed out a direction how a modern HK CM industry could help in the global business development of China’s CM companies in terms of quality assurance, international product registration and marketing. In addition, with HK’s experience and standards in hospital management, we are in a unique position to act as a referral center to CM experts in China with due attention to quality and risk management through accreditation and medical insurance. Furthermore, HK’s scientists could also contribute their talents in CM formulation, product R&D and designs, certifications and clinical trials.

In June 2008, Vice Minister of Health, Wang Guo Qiang 王國強 signed an MOU with US’s Department of Health and Social Services, outlining extensive cooperation between the two countries in the development of CM.

Many western countries are also getting on board for this fast-pace development. The Canadian Ministry of Commerce signed an MOU with China’s MOST 2 years ago to collaborate in a number of life science fields including CM. Similar arrangements have also been successfully made with UK, Italy and Germany. These governmental agreements will lead to many collaboration opportunities for both HK and Mainland scientists.

The above declarations, policy statements and activities were backed by the Central Government with hundreds of millions of RMB and they were organized by top government agencies. The impact of these policies was reflected in the recent strong leap in domestic CM sales in China as shown in the table on the following page.

CM sales now constitute about 41.5% of China’s total domestic pharmaceutical sales, a considerable increase from 1980’s 32.5%. These figures provide a clear indication for the trend and vitality of the CM market in China.

Sales of TCM Products in China (RNB)
Raw Herbs
藥 材
Processed herbs
飲 片
Proprietary CM
中 成 藥
1978 1.257 Bn 0.92 Bn 0.788 Bn
2007 20.3 Bn 220.3 Bn 137.1 Bn

Economic Herald 經濟導報 2008-9-30  Vol.85 p.40

Provinces and cities in the Mainland have also expressed openly their intentions to collaborate with HK to open international markets. These include Hainan, Shenyang, Chengdu, Changchun and Sichuan — all of which have signed memorandums of understanding with MCMIA to collaborate on the internationalization of TCM. Other institutions, universities and commercial entities from Shanghai, Hangzou, Guangzhou, Yunan etc. are also seeking HK’s assistance in opening their channels to the international markets. Guangdong province went one step further and established a Guangdong – Hong Kong Technology Cooperation Funding Scheme (TCFS粵港科技合作資助計劃) with HK’s Innovation Technology Commission. Part of fund is earmarked to support CM modernization projects.

In mid 2008, plans are being finalized for the establishment of 10 Chinese Medicine Research Centers in China with central funding.  Hong Kong is welcomed to form a unique CM research centre that could co-operate with all of them in a 10+1 model.

Another significant development in recently year is the establishment of CFCMS (World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies世界中醫藥學會聯合會), which boasts 150 international CM associations in 50 countries as its members. This organization helps to set standards by organizing training and examinations in major languages in all continents. With their encouragement, the University of Science and Technology of Macau, recently founded the『兩岸四地中醫藥科技合作中心』 in January 2008. A new hospital for integrative medicine has also been built in Macau with a view to capitalize on ‘medical tourism’.

In Taiwan, great strides have been taken in the past decade with government funding for research through four sectors – health, education, technology and economics. Taiwan’s Department of Health commissions strategic research with scientifically robust annual publications and high quality monographs. It also monitors and ensures quality CM products are made available to the public.

The Taiwan government supports Chinese and western medicine equally by providing reimbursement for treatment under either practice. In 80% of Taiwan’s major western hospitals (with >2000 beds), there is a CM department with in-patient beds used for integrative medicine with cross referral and consultation. The China Medical University and the Chang Gang University support this integrative approach by awarding double degrees in CM and western medicine.

All these changes are likely to improve dramatically CM practice and products in the next few years such that CM will be moving into the global market at an accelerating pace on an unprecedented scale. In short, this could be the first steps of the CM globalization.

The question is: “Is Hong Kong ready to capitalize on the approaching CM globalization?” Unfortunately, from all indications, only a small segment of the HK CM industry appreciates the significance of these events and even fewer are preparing themselves to take advantage of the benefits CM globalization could bring. Even the HK government is apparently completely oblivious to these events. As a result, HK could very well be caught off-guard when CM globalization begins to take off.