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LCQ8: Development of the Chinese medicine industry

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Pan Pey-chyou and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (November 18):


     In his Policy Address delivered recently, the Chief Executive has proposed to promote the development of Chinese medicine and facilitate its development by introducing new certification services, making Hong Kong "a stage for promoting Chinese medicine to the world".  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) in order to promote Chinese medicine to the world, how the authorities promote to the trades technology for modernising the Chinese medicine industry by integrating with science and technology, so that the trades would better understand the latest situation of the development of the industry;

(b) how the authorities will seek the Mainland's and international recognition of the new certification services proposed for development; apart from introducing new certification services, what other specific measures the authorities have put in place to assist Hong Kong in becoming a stage for promoting Chinese medicine to the world; and

(c) given that members of the public have an increasing demand for Chinese medicine, and the international recognition of Chinese medicine has gradually increased, whether the authorities will incorporate Chinese medicine into the public healthcare system, so as to meet the demand and facilitate the development of the Chinese medicine industry?



(a) For the purpose of safeguarding public health and consumer rights and ensuring a high professional standard of the Chinese medicine sector so as to expedite the standardisation and internationalisation of Chinese medicine, the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong was established under the Chinese Medicine Ordinance in 1999. The council has responsibility to implement various regulatory measures relating to Chinese medicine and regulate the safety, quality and efficacy of proprietary Chinese medicines, laying a good foundation for the development of the Chinese medicine industry in Hong Kong and boosting consumer confidence in the use of Chinese medicine products.  In fact, the regulatory regime in Hong Kong also serves as a model for other places.  In addition, we hope to help Hong Kong's Chinese medicine move towards internationalisation through the development of the Chinese medicine industry with the concept of "evidence-based medicine" and the introduction of a scientific authentication mechanism.

     Through the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF), the Government provides funding support for the conduct of applied research for Chinese medicines and projects for development of a modern technological platform and for procurement of additional advanced equipment for local universities and scientific research institutions so as to enhance their capabilities in pharmaceutical research and development, pre-clinical study, manufacturing process development, analysis of Chinese medicine characteristics and quality assessment, etc.  ITF has also assisted the establishment of many facilities, such as the Process Development Facility for Chinese Medicine in the Hong Kong Institute of Biotechnology, the Traditional Chinese Medicine Centre of the Biotechnology Research Institute in the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Quality Research Laboratory of the Hong Kong Baptist University for analysis and authentication of the ingredients in Chinese herbal medicines, so as to lay a foundation for the development of modern Chinese medicine and quality control of Chinese medicines.  This shows that we are able to provide the Chinese medicine industry with modern equipment and technical support of international standard.  Since 2005, the Guangdong-Hong Kong Technology Cooperation Funding Scheme has been established under ITF, so as to encourage closer collaboration in the conduct of applied research for Chinese medicines between the scientific research institutions and enterprises in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province.  We have all along encouraged enterprises to leverage the knowledge and resources of the universities and scientific research institutions and work together to enhance the innovation, modern technology level and international competitiveness of the Chinese medicine industry.

     In addition, the HKSAR Government and the Hong Kong Jockey Club set up the Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Chinese Medicine (ICM) in 2001 as a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute.  The purpose is to promote, coordinate and strengthen scientific research in Chinese medicines in Hong Kong and facilitate the commercialisation of research results in Chinese medicines, with a view to enhancing the competitiveness of the Chinese medicine industry in the market.

     ICM has been given a donation of HK$500 million from the Hong Kong Jockey Club for funding its research projects and activities.  So far, ICM has given support to more than 10 different projects including various applied research projects on the development of new Chinese medicine products, and the standardisation and quality assessment of Chinese medicines, etc.  Besides, the Chinese Medicine Laboratory under ICM works with its network of advisors and technology partners in providing technical support on sourcing and quality assessment of Chinese herbal medicines, authentication of Chinese materia medica, analytical methodology development and ingredient verification as well as the provision of Chinese medicine chemical markers and contractual research services.  ICM helps the industry to develop high-quality Chinese medicine products by way of modern methods and by integrating with science and technology.

     ICM also disseminates its research results, information relating to research activities in Hong Kong, the Mainland and overseas, and the statutory requirements for Chinese medicine products in major overseas markets as well as the latest information about the industry for the reference of the industry through its information webpage, publications, market researches and database.  It also updates and shares its experience with the industry on the latest research results by regularly organising and participating in seminars and forums relevant to the Chinese medicine industry.

(b) At present, there is yet any uniform set of criteria internationally for the setting of standards for Chinese medicine.  By leveraging on its strengths, Hong Kong has made positive efforts to develop standards for Chinese medicine so as to make Hong Kong a platform for promoting Chinese medicine to the world.  In 2002, the Department of Health (DH) launched a study programme on the Hong Kong Chinese Materia Medica Standards (HKCMMS) with the purpose of setting standards, in terms of safety and quality, for Chinese herbal medicines which are commonly used in Hong Kong.  To facilitate the development of Chinese medicine, the coverage of the programme will be extended from the current 60 herbal medicines to about 200.

     Apart from safeguarding public health, the development of safety and quality reference standards for Chinese medicines can help bring about improvements in the use of raw materials for proprietary Chinese medicines and boost public confidence in Chinese medicines.  It can also serve as the cornerstone for the conduct of further research on Chinese medicines, facilitate alignment with international requirements and expedite the modernisation and internationalisation of Chinese medicines as well as facilitating the Chinese medicines trade and laying a foundation for Hong Kong's development into an international Chinese medicine centre.   An International Advisory Board, comprising high level representatives from different countries, has been established for the HKCMMS to promote worldwide recognition and acceptance of the HKCMMC research results so as to make Hong Kong a platform for promoting Chinese medicine to the world.

     The Hong Kong Accreditation Service (HKAS) under the Innovation and Technology Commission provides accreditation for laboratories, certification bodies and inspection bodies in Hong Kong.  Under the mutual recognition arrangements made with international accreditation authorities, the accreditation given to testing and certification agencies by HKAS is recognised by 72 accreditation authorities (including the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment) in 54 economies.

     Besides, the Trade Development Council of Hong Kong holds an International Conference and Exhibition of the Modernisation of Chinese Medicine and Health Products each year to provide the Chinese medicine industry with a trade platform for large-scale international exchange and cooperation.

(c) The contribution of Chinese medicine to the primary healthcare services is widely recognised by the public.  Chinese medicine services in Hong Kong have all along been provided primarily by the private sector.  As at October 31, 2009, there are 6,120 registered Chinese medicine practitioners (CMPs) and 2,793 listed CMPs in Hong Kong, providing Chinese medicine services in various districts.  For patients who need to be hospitalised or suffer from severe illnesses, they are treated by Western medical practitioners generally while CMPs may play a supplementary role.

     In view of the increasing demand for Chinese medicine services from members of the public, the Government is incorporating Chinese medicine services into the public healthcare system on an incremental basis.  The Hospital Authority is now trying out different models of Chinese and Western medicines shared care services in various hospitals.  A larger scale of Chinese and Western medicines shared care services will be considered to be incorporated in the proposed Chinese medicine building under the Kwong Wah Hospital Redevelopment Project.  Besides, the Government has established public Chinese medicine clinics (CMCs) in various districts since 2003.  The main objective is to promote the development of "evidence-based" Chinese medicine and at the same time serve the function of providing the recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and the elderly with free or reduced-fee Chinese medicine services.  At present, there are 14 public CMCs, which are located in the Central and Western District, Wan Chai, Eastern District, Kwun Tong, Wong Tai Sin, Sham Shui Po, Tsuen Wan, Tai Po, Tseung Kwan O, Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, Kwai Tsing, North District and Sha Tin respectively.  We are now making an effort to identify suitable sites in the Kowloon City District, Yau Tsim Mong District, Southern District and Islands District for establishing CMCs.  Besides, some non-government organisations also provide Chinese medicine services by way of mobile CMCs in a number of districts.  It is thus evident that public and private Chinese medicine services complement each other in meeting the needs of the community.

Ends/Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:41


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