TCM still not a proven science

Dr Ong Siew Chey's views strongly resonate with my own ("Tenuous link to Nobel Prize win"; Oct 14).

Dr Tu Youyou's Nobel win is well deserved, but to perceive it as a validation of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is erroneous.

Dr Tu's efforts in drug discovery lie in the realm of pharmacognosy, the rigorous application of the scientific method in searching for potential drugs in natural compounds.   

Concepts in the world view and philosophy of TCM such as "qi" and "meridians" are not demonstrable, nor can they be quantified or measured.

The dichotomy between "Chinese" and "Western" science and medicine is a false one.

There is simply good and bad science, and medicine that works and medicine that does not. TCM falls into the latter of both categories.

To those who charge that I am using "Western" standards to pass judgment upon an "Eastern" discipline, I agree.

The scientific method as it is currently practised and applied is the only and best yardstick we have in deciding whether or not a treatment works.

Whatever herb that is validated by science as an effective treatment for an illness stems from the fact that active chemical compounds within the herb achieve the desired therapeutic outcome.

The herb, in its purified form, automatically ceases to be "traditional" medicine and instead, simply becomes "medicine".

The fact that there are active ingredients in the herb has nothing to do with the pseudoscientific concepts of alternative medicine.

Dr Tu's win will be misinterpreted by many. I am confident that the Ministry of Health will not bow to bad science, and will resist calls to subsidise it at the expense of science-based ones.

Oon Ming Liang (Dr)