Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline will open a new research unit in China to look at traditional Chinese medicine.
According to the company, Innovative TCM will be one of GSK’s R&D programs in China, aiming to transform TCM from an experience-based practice to evidence-based medicines through innovation and differentiation.
“Traditional chinese medicine is a well-established system of medical practice developed through thousands of years of empirical testing and refinement of herbal mixtures, and relies generally on clinical experience,” said Zang Jingwu, senior vice president and head of R&D China.
“Western medicines, on the other hand, are generally target-based small molecules or biologics, and their approvals for clinical use are based on clinical evidence of safety and efficacy by staged clinical trials,” he said.
This news suggests a few things. First, that GSK recognizes that TCM is popular in China and it may prove to be a lucrative venture. Second, it signals that GSK understands how awful the quality of TCM standards are right now. Some stuff just doesn’t work, the treatments are not standardized and some are hard to come by using plant or animal products. Better ways of manufacturing the drugs are needed. It appears they wish to take advantage of that. Their strategy is to use “existing TCM knowledge of diseases with modern drug discovery technology and clinical trial methodology.” Actually, that sounds like a good move. A responsible manufacturing process for these drugs would be a welcome change. No more medicines derived from bear bile if they can manufacture the drug WITHOUT harming actual bears, for example. That’s a huge step in the right direction, especially in the Chinese market.