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Positive development in TCM already taking place

I thank Dr Lee Wei Ling for her opinions on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), based on the perspectives of Western medicine ("World can gain from more TCM research"; Jan 17).

Traditional Chinese medicine has made tremendous improvements over the years in research and scholarly studies. A search online yields substantial research on such medicine, done not only in China, but also in Europe and the United States.

In the World Health Organisation Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023, two key goals were stated: to support member states in harnessing the potential contribution of traditional and complementary medicine to health, wellness and people-centred healthcare, and to promote the safe and effective use of such medicine through regulation of products, practices and practitioners.

Spain recently signed a deal to open Europe's largest TCM hospital in Barcelona, the first of its kind outside Asia.

TCM in Singapore has also been improving. Since the establishment of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2000, TCM has been professionally regulated through stringent licensing of physicians. Efforts to maintain better hygiene have also seen significant improvement in most TCM institutions.

Traditional Chinese medicine has made tremendous improvements over the years in research and scholarly studies. A search online yields substantial research on such medicine, done not only in China, but also in Europe and the United States.

More than 30 years ago, Singapore banned berberine, the active constituent of some TCM herbs. But given extensive international literature review, the authorities found little evidence of harm and lifted the ban in 2013.

MOH has also introduced a TCM Clinical Research Grant to encourage local TCM clinical research. To date, there are six ongoing collaborative studies between TCM institutions and local hospitals.

The world has much to gain from TCM research. Studies have helped to uncover the pharmacological value of Chinese herbs and concoctions. Dry needling and trigger point therapy are now commonly practised among Western physicians to alleviate pain. These are similar to acupuncture and the meridian theory used in TCM.

It is feasible for Western and Chinese physicians to share and learn from clinical experiences, which will ultimately benefit patients.

William Peh Wei Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 27, 2016, with the headline 'Positive development in TCM already taking place'. Print Edition | Subscribe