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LCQ4: Developing traditional Chinese medicine
     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Hoey Simon Lee and a reply by the Acting Secretary for Health, Dr Libby Lee, in the Legislative Council today (February 15):


     In November 2022, the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine promulgated the "Development Plan for the Informatisation of Traditional Chinese Medicine during the 14th Five-Year Plan Period", putting forward "the continuous promotion of an in-depth integration of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) business with information technology, and the facilitation of transformation and upgrading of the industry through digitalisation, networkisation and intelligentisation". On the other hand, the Hunan-Jiangxi-Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Traditional Chinese Medicine Industry Chain Collaborative Development Alliance was also established in the same month to focus on promoting the inheritance, innovation and development of TCM. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the initiatives for promoting the informatisation of local TCM at present;

(2) whether it has conducted analyses on the progress of informatisation of TCM in Hong Kong and the relevant situation on the Mainland, particularly in the two aspects of testing and scientific research as well as merchandise trading, and explored how collaborative development can be achieved with the Mainland; and

(3) whether a development plan for the TCM industry is currently in place to explore how to capitalise on Hong Kong's strengths and enhance its co-operation with the Mainland (including other cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area) in respect of the TCM industry; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     Thank you President and Dr the Hon Lee.
     Chinese medicine (CM) is an important part of Hong Kong's healthcare system. The Government has all along been committed to promoting the development of CM on various fronts including policy and regulation, talent nurturing, research and innovation, CM services and the CM drug industry, with a view to bringing the strengths and functions of CM into full play so as to integrate into the overall national development of CM. In this connection, the Government has been encouraging the CM sector to enhance the application of technologies at different levels and harness its benefits to improve service quality, business efficiency and promote industry development.

     Among all, as mentioned in the "Development Plan for the Informatisation of Traditional Chinese Medicine during the 14th Five-Year Plan Period", the transformation and upgrading of the CM sector can be driven by digitalisation, networkisation and intelligentisation, thereby fostering the modernisation of CM as well as the high-quality development of the CM sector and industry. With regard to the aforementioned aspects, various developments have been achieved.

     In terms of CM practice, if we are to digitalise CM services for future analysis or application of artificial intelligence to enhance service quality, we must first get hold of sufficient data and establish a platform for collecting these data. In this regard, the first and foremost task is to standardise CM and CM drug terminology into data that may be used for communication within the sharing system. This is a crucial task in the process of promoting the informatisation and digitalisation of CM. We have been maintaining close communication with the CM sector, and have set up a relevant task group on standardisation to develop CM clinical and CM drugs terminology tables for eHealth (Electronic Health Record Sharing System), with reference to the terminologies used locally and in the Mainland.

     The next step is to have a shared electronic platform for communication. The Government has engaged the Hospital Authority to develop a CM clinical management software named "EC Connect" to support the daily administration and clinical management of CM clinics, and foster the connection of these CM clinics with the eHealth for the sharing of CM clinical data.

     Separately, the system of the future Chinese Medicine Hospital will also complement the Electronic Health Record Sharing System by adopting the standardised CM terminologies as basis to enable data installation and record sharing in the future. Moreover, the Chinese Medicine Hospital, which is developed to be a smart hospital, will adopt numerous innovative technologies for promoting CM.

     As for CM drug, we aim at a high-quality development. The Government Chinese Medicines Testing Institute (GCMTI) is in fact committed to developing a set of internationally-recognised reference standards and testing methods for CM drugs and related products by employing state-of-the-art technology and through scientific research to strengthen quality control by the sector on CM drugs and related products, thereby establishing the brand image of Hong Kong's CM drugs.

     Apart from taking forward various research projects on CM drug identification studies, chemical marker analysis and testing methods, the GCMTI also actively promotes the innovative application of CM data and resources, and is developing a digitalised CM drug information platform, including digitalising physical CM drug specimens by phases to create digital exhibits, and establishing the genetic traceability between CM drugs and their species origins by scientific analyses. The relevant work would provide the industry with comprehensive and professional information on CM drug identification, thereby enhancing their identification capability in the course of procurement of CM drugs. Representatives of the Department of Health, upon invitation, attended meetings of the professional committee of CM digitalisation under the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine to strengthen the research and collaboration of drug testing research institutes and experts of Hong Kong and various Mainland provinces and municipalities in the area of digitalisation of CM drug specimens and drug identification, thereby fostering the integration of traditional CM and digitalisation.

     The work of the GCMTI on CM drug testing, research, training and international exchange has been supported by the relevant Mainland ministries/commissions and research institutions. The National Institutes for Food and Drug Control and the other research institutions have all along been providing assistance to the GCMTI on the research work in relation to implementing the Hong Kong Chinese Materia Medica Standards, i.e. HKCMMS, with a view to enhancing the reference standards of Chinese herbal medicines. The GCMTI was also invited last year by the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine for the first time to take part in the Fourth Chinese Materia Medica Resources Survey to examine the situation of CM drug resources in Hong Kong so as to dovetail with the establishment of a national database of CM drug resources survey outcomes. The GCMTI's CM herbarium is being set up with the assistance of the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA). We are also delighted by the NMPA's donation of precious and representative specimens of CM drugs for display.

     In addition, the Government has also been promoting informatisation of CM services in other areas, including subsidising the sector through the Chinese Medicine Development Fund to procure computer hardware and related software, systems for drug logistics management, transaction and distribution records, and digitalising the application and licensing services for over 40 certificates or licences under the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong to provide convenience to the sector.

     Hong Kong has all along been backed by the Motherland. Under the direction of the National 14th Five-Year Plan, we have been actively strengthening Hong Kong's role under the blueprint set out in the Construction Plan for the Chinese Medicine Highlands in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) (2020-2025). Among others, Hong Kong registered traditional proprietary Chinese medicines (pCms) for external use can currently be registered and sold in the Mainland through streamlined approval procedures, thereby facilitating Hong Kong pCm manufacturers to expand new markets and creating favourable conditions for Hong Kong pCms to "go global" in the long run.

     As announced in the 2022 Policy Address, we will jointly formulate a blueprint for the overall development of CM with the CM sector and map out the short, medium and long-term objectives and related recommendations on the overall development and long-term planning. One of issues to be explored is the development of the CM industry, covering the industry regulatory situation, the direction of industry development, ways to facilitate business and develop markets, etc.

     Meanwhile, we will continue to work with the CM sector to deepen Hong Kong's CM collaboration with the Mainland, the GBA and the international community, proactively integrate into the national development in CM, give full play to Hong Kong's strengths and capitalise on Hong Kong's vital role as the gateway connecting the Mainland and the world, with a view to promoting the informatisation, modernisation and internationalisation of CM. Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Issued at HKT 20:16
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