Doctors Call for Stricter Regulation of Traditional Chinese Medicine | Medication

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Leading European doctors are calling for stricter regulation of traditional Chinese medicine, worried that recent recognition by the World Health Organization is encouraging the use of unproven therapies that can sometimes be harmful.

The Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) and the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Academies will publish a joint declaration Thursday, urging the WHO to clarify how traditional Chinese medicine and other complementary therapies should be used.

Earlier this year, the WHO decided to add a chapter on traditional Chinese medicine to the International Classification of Diseases, which lists the treatments available around the world for the medical conditions. The DCI exerts influence on governments, which consider its recommendations when deciding how to spend health budgets.

The WHO says it’s not an endorsement, but European scientists fear manufacturers will use it to promote their herbal and other remedies – and the public will be misled into thinking that there is good evidence that they work and are safe. There is a risk, they say, that some people with serious illness may even avoid or delay seeing a conventional doctor.

Doctors stress the importance of evidence-based medicine, said Professor George Griffin, president of FEAM. “We don’t give drugs and surgical treatments unless there is real evidence that they work and do not cause any harm and basically the feeling is that most traditional Chinese medicine drugs are not. not regulated, ”he said. “They are not tested properly for toxicity. They probably vary a lot between the batches produced, eg algae, which is the last, and they can be harmful.

“The other side of the equation is that they can trick patients into believing they are taking appropriate therapy for serious illness.”

Traditional Chinese medicine includes herbal remedies, tai chi, skin cupping, and acupuncture. Its practitioners focus on the whole mind and body and do not make a diagnosis on the basis of isolated symptoms. They believe that life energy, called qi, flows through the channels of the body, connected to organs and functions. Although many therapies have been used for hundreds of years, there is little evidence of benefit from scientific trials and evidence of harm.

The doctors behind this statement recognize that traditional Chinese medicine has sometimes produced treatments of real value to the world. Most notable recently is artemisinin therapy, which is the mainstay of malaria treatment in Africa. But, they point out, the original artemisia preparations were chemically modified and rigorously tested to produce the drugs used in combination today.

They agree with the good intention of the WHO to encourage rigorous testing of the remedies used by so many people. But they believe that the list of traditional Chinese medicine will be misinterpreted.

“Multiple risks of damage from herbal ingredients have been documented,” they warn. Sometimes herbal remedies have been adulterated with chemicals. Interaction with conventional drugs can be a serious threat. And acupuncture, they will say, “is not necessarily trivial.” A revision in 2017 found numerous injuries, infections and adverse effects.

Although those who use complementary medicines think they are from small companies, by and large they are large companies. “The production and delivery of traditional Chinese medicine has grown into a big industry with estimates of $ 60 billion. [£46.5bn] per year and an annual growth rate greater than 10%, ”the statement said.

Doctors “urge the European Commission and Member States to do more to ensure that all medical products and procedures go through an appropriate level of assessment for quality, safety and efficacy, in accordance with testing procedures standardized ”.


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