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A critical review of traditional Chinese and Indian medicine

I was shocked by a recent Cochrane Review that concluded, “There was no evidence that the Chinese medicinal herbal treatment caused harm” in women with breast cancer.

Anyone who has followed the pet food recalls or reviewed the safety literature on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and traditional Indian medicine (TIM) would come to a different conclusion.

Here’s an article by representatives of the university, research, and pharmaceutical sectors in India that defines the challenges TCM and TIM face before becoming more acceptable to the world community.

Defining the challenge.

  • Consistency in composition and biological activity are essential requirements for the safe and effective use of therapeutic agents.
  • Quality is the critical determinant of safety and efficacy of botanical medicines
  • However, botanical preparations rarely meet the standards of quality.

The problems within the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Availability of the desired plant in the required quantity, free from toxic contaminants and with desired therapeutic activity have also become a critical issue.
  • Adulteration is a major problem, including phenylbutazone, indomethacin and/or corticosteroids, and heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, and lead contamination.
  • Market botanicals are stored under undesirable conditions over the years and may have contamination or adulteration of other materials.
  • Lack of proper processing of the materials even by pharmaceutical firms.

And the problems are not confined to the pharmaceutical industry.

  • The pipeline covers collectors and breeders, dealers of the plant materials, processing and manufacturing industry, practitioners of traditional medicine, and finally the consumers.
  • There are ample of opportunities for adulteration and contamination in the process.
  • The adequate availability of quality raw materials free from adulterants at reasonable prices have become a big problem for industry and the demand is increasing every year.
  • However, very few efforts have been made either by government or by industry to seriously study the supply and demand.

And, it’s not a good sign when the Chinese government prevents access by the FDA, and the company allegedly responsible for the contamination, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company Ltd., denies a problem exists.

4/22/07 10:22 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.