12/03/2010, 00.00
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Third of traditional Chinese medicines outlawed

As of 1 December the sale of medicines without state authorization is prohibited. Producers complain that to obtain the license, very expensive and complex laboratory tests are required. But others respond that the traditional products sometimes do not meet current standards.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A third of traditional medicines produced in China are banned from 1 December, when a new law took effect that requires a state license that shows, among other things, components, country production, registration number and expiration date, as well as a detailed explanation of the cases for use, dosages and possible side effects.

The Chinese Medicine Ordinance was passed by 11 years ago, but immediately before 1 December, the Department of Health announced that only 11,820 of the 16,730 medicines on the market has at least a provisional license. Only 15% have a permanent license. The temporary license is issued to the preparations which have been tested for heavy metals and toxicity of pesticide residues and microbial limits. For the actual license, the exact components must be indicated and the efficacy of the drug proven.

The producers explain that they need more time to carry out the necessary tests.

The first major problem - explain the producers - are the high cost of laboratory tests needed to ensure that the product is not harmful and that it produces the effects described, costs that particularly the small businesses can not afford.

Wong Ping-ming, president of the Hong Kong Medicine Dealers’ Guild, told the South China Morning Post that "a laboratory test costs 100 thousand Hong Kong dollars (9903 euro). He added that these drugs are made from herbs and that therefore their composition is not always the same as for western medicines prepared with standardized chemical components.

Yu Kwok-wai, Chairman of the Hong Kong Chinese Medicine Practitioners' Rights General Union, is also sceptical about the usefulness of laboratory tests, because their effectiveness does not depend on theoretical studies, but from experience, "many Chinese medicines have been handed down by our grandparents and we did not have the resources to make systematic studies on their effectiveness".

Now this group is calling for the government to give subsidies to those who can not afford the laboratory tests and to adopt more flexible rules for traditional Chinese medicines.

But others, like William Chui Chun-ming, vice president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Hong Kong, believes that these producers are unable to deliver "medicines that meet current safety regulations" and advises against " showing understanding", to prevent major problems. Now – he says "it is time to eliminate companies not complying with the standards “required.
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