Health Minister calls for Chinese medicine availability on NHS

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The Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, has asked for Chinese medicine to be made available on the NHS. He has stated that this should be implemented if there is sufficient evidence to prove that patients would benefit from it.

He further said that the NHS should consider the integration of traditional Chinese medications with Western medical treatments.

Mr Hunt has travelled to China frequently with his wife who is from the Orient. He said that these trips have shown him the importance of following scientific evidence regarding Chinese medicines. He believed that taxpayers’ funds should not be spent on traditional therapies if there is no evidence of its benefits.

These statements were made in response to a question posed to Mr Hunt about what he has learned about integrating Chinese medicine with Western medicines during his frequent trips to China.

Chinese medicines include acupuncture, massage therapy and herbal remedies. The NHS Choices has stated that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence currently recommends acupuncture as an alternative treatment for lower back pain only. It states that this recommendation is based purely on scientific evidence.

According to U.S. researchers, the poppy plant which has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries may be a suitable remedy for chronic pain. They discovered that the roots of Corydalis contain an extremely powerful compound which has pain-relief properties. However, toxicity testing was needed before its use.

Last year the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency issued warnings regarding the dangerous levels of arsenic, mercury and lead in Chinese medicines. Their concern was that people were able to obtain unlicensed Chinese medicines online and this was particularly dangerous, especially if it was to be given to children.

Further warnings have been issued about the traces of endangered animals present in Chinese medicines.

During December, senior members in the health industry were invited to form part of an independent group to review, advise and make recommendations to the government on the best way forward on this issue. It has been made quite clear though that any recommendation will not be finalised until the next election has passed.

Image credit: Renato Ganoza

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