A senior health official has called on the European Union to impose fewer restrictions on imports of traditional Chinese medicine.
Wang Guoqiang, vice-minister of health, said on Sunday that the EU should consider the character of Chinese culture and of TCM when making regulations on TCM imports.
“Unlike Western medicines, which attach great importance to laboratory results, TCM practitioners can determine symptoms of illness by checking the pulse,” he said on the sidelines of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
An EU directive, issued in March 2004 and implemented in May 2011, mandates that herbal medicines be barred from the EU market unless they are licensed by an EU member state.
To gain authorization in the EU, herbal medicine makers must pay large sums for registration and collect documentation proving the product has a 30-year history of safe use, including 15 years in the EU.
Where to start with this one? I’m not exactly sure what the vice-minister is getting at with his statement about considering the character of Chinese culture when regulating TCM imports. It sounds like the argument from antiquity – it’s been used for a long time, therefore it must be good.
Why do we in the “Western medicine” world attach great importance to laboratory results (he says as if a bad thing)? Because they are non-biased ways to measure the effects of drugs on the human body and the primary way we assess safety and efficacy. Feeling someone’s pulse might tell you if they have hypertension but little else.
Safety of course is the most important factor that argues AGAINST lax restrictions on imported meds. Some traditional meds can cause metal poisoning or organ damage. Because there is little oversight, they can contain unsafe ingredients.