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Traditional Chinese Medicine Entering Global Markets

An indigenous Chinese herb, growing across the country, has been used to treat a variety of diseases for hundreds of years. Now it has entered global markets.

It is called Danshen in Chinese, or Salvia miltiorrhiza in Latin.

Its product, Fufang Danshen Diwan, extracting curative ingredients mainly from the herbal plant, is now available in 16 African countries and becomes the first Chinese herbal medicine approved by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical tests in the United States.

The medicine is now undergoing clinical tests in the US and European Union, which are going well, according to the producer, Tasly Pharmaceutical in the northern port city of Tianjin.

Although a small step forward, the success has cast light on the development of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Often a complex mixture of herbs and animal products, TCM has found it tough to enter the area dominated by the Western pharmaceuticals, as it is hard to explain the magic working of TCM in scientific language.

The key to the globalization of TCM would be standardization, Dr. Bradley B. Keller, the Pediatric Biomedical Innovation Development director at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh said.

Trying to find and integrate the effective curative compounds in herbal plants would be the new hope, many researchers and drug makers agreed.

True standardization could not be attained without knowing the effective compounds in TCM, Yang Xiuwei, head of the school of pharmaceuticals at Peking University, has said.

According to government figures, the industrial output of TCM reached 177.2 billion yuan (US$25.9 billion) in 2007, accounting for 26.53 percent of the total pharmaceutical industrial output value.

(Xinhua News Agency November 10, 2008)

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