By Henry Sun, Shirley Chai
The World Health Organization (WHO) is about to do something it’s never done before. In 2019, the WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly, will approve the inclusion of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD) and Related Health Problems.
The 11th Edition of the ICD will be released in 2022. TCM will be Chapter 26. This promises to have a dramatic effect on health care around the world.
Global Standards Catching Up with Medical Research and Practice
The January issue of National Geographic features a story with a subtitle that captures both the essence of the article and the trend in medical research:
“Long overlooked by Western science, traditional Chinese treatments are yielding cutting-edge cures.”
In the article, the author includes a brief story about how retired NFL player James Harrison used acupuncture and moxibustion to deal with pain and soreness during his career.
These stories aren’t unique. Medical research is extensively on the different practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you search PubMed, the National Institute of Health’s online research library, you’ll see more than:
- 29,000 studies on acupuncture
- 4,700 studies on moxibustion
- 2,100 Tai Chi studies
Many of the studies have included small test groups. Yet, you’ll find research that has changed lives.
For example, you can read the research done by scientist Tu, Youyou who won a Nobel Prize in medicine for a malaria drug based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. The medication she and her team developed, artemisinin, reduced death rates due to malaria from 1 in every 5 cases to 1 in 10.[i]
Artemisinin isn’t the only drug developed that has produced results.
Dantonic, based on a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) combination of three-herb Danshen, Notoginseng, and Borneol, is currently in additional stage III trials open on successful completion of the first stage III trial with the FDA.
Tasly Pharmaceuticals Seeks Final US Approval for T89 Drug as known as Dantonic. In trials to date, this herbal drug has safely relieved chronic angina.[ii]
Questions About the Safety of TCM
There are many who question the safety of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but perhaps ironically, it’s precisely safety that has made TCM popular with so many people.
An article by the Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News, cited a couple of statistics that punctuate this fact:
- In the U.S., 1.3 million adults and 200,000 children made emergency room visits in 2017 due to side effects from pharmaceutical drugs.
- In China, 230,069 adverse side effects were reported in 2017.
- Since the CDC started tracking reports of adverse events, acupuncture has not had a single fatality in 50 years of records.
The reality of healthcare today in the U.S. – and around the world – Is that people want safe therapies with a minimum risk of side effects for a reasonable price.
The Reach of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD)
Countries around the world rely on ICD. It impacts how physicians diagnose diseases. Health officials use it to understand health statistics and understand the impact of disease on mortality.
Scientists, especially those who study the spread of disease, rely on it. Even insurance companies use it.
By including TCM as Chapter 26, a classification system will be put in place that will allow researchers to connect TCM diagnoses to their conventional medicine counterparts.
Global Reach with a Positive Local Impact
While the inclusion of TCM promises to have a significant global impact on the availability, quality, and affordability of healthcare, these benefits are likely to also be seen by healthcare practitioners in the U.S. And Americans everywhere.
In a way, the WHO’s adoption of TCM brings mainstream practice. One of the biggest potential impacts for individuals and healthcare practices is through a shift in health insurance.
Extensive Financial Benefits
Read the news about health care in the U.S., and you’ll see it faces a lot of challenges.
There may be a lack of doctors in the future. Nurses are overworked as there simply aren’t enough to meet the need. And then there’s the cost.
Health care costs remain a challenge.
One reason so many people have turned to alternative medicine involves its lower cost compared to conventional therapies.
With TCM recognized as a global medical system, health insurance companies are positioned to offer greater access.
This isn’t just a win for the healthcare consumer. The low cost makes it a win for the insurance companies too.
A Move Toward Holistic Healthcare
Global recognition of TCM represents the first step toward greater awareness and availability.
More than two thousand years of medical therapies become more widely available.
It also legitimizes a more holistic approach to medicine, one already adopted by top medical facilities in the U.S. such as the Mayo Clinic, Harvard & Brigham Women’s Hospital Osher Center and the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine.
Ultimately, the more all medical traditions share their knowledge and explore, test and promote advances and innovation, the better the healthcare everyone will enjoy.
[ii] Liao W, et al. A review of the mechanism of action of Dantonic® for the treatment of chronic stable angina. Biomed Pharmacother. 2019 Jan;109:690-700. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.10.013. Epub 2018 Nov 5.