China’s best-known infectious disease expert Zhong Nanshan has dispelled the myth that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can prevent Covid-19 following public speculation that an online health platform popular had been suspended for challenging its use to fight the virus.
“As of now, no medicine has been proven to prevent Covid-19,” he told the 18th International Luobing Theory Congress in Guangzhou, according to the Yangcheng Evening News.
Zhong, who led the country’s fight against Covid-19 and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), has long promoted the use of traditional Chinese medicine and called for more research and development, as well as a greater integration with modern medicine.
He said that whether it is modern medicine or TCM, it is always about proving that drugs, technology and methodology are effective and safe.
“It’s important that we summarize thousands of years of TCM experience, create new prescriptions and methods, go through clinical trials, in order to do more research,” he said.
Chinese leaders have been strong supporters of TCM, with several traditional treatments included in national guidelines for the treatment of Covid-19.
Among them is Lianhua Qingwen, which was developed in 2003 to treat Sars.
It contains 13 ingredients, including apricot kernel, rhubarb, honeysuckle and ephedra, the last of which has been used since the 13th century to treat respiratory conditions.
However, use of the drug to treat Covid-19 has been discouraged or banned in several countries, including the United States, Singapore and Australia, due to concerns about cardiovascular side effects and a lack of evidence of its effectiveness. .
Zhong has been a strong believer in drugs. In May 2020, a study he led was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Phytomedicine, which looked at the impact of taking Lianhua Qingwen on 284 patients.
He found that the capsule can significantly reduce the clinical symptoms of patients with Covid-19 – especially fever, fatigue and cough – leading to a higher recovery rate and shorter recovery time.
During the first outbreak in 2020, some Xinjiang residents were given herbal medicines and capsules from Lianhua Qingwen and told to take them daily ‘to prevent Covid-19’ – a move that sparked an outcry public to force people to take unproven drugs.
However, there is a lot of skepticism about the treatment among leading Chinese scientists.
In April, Dingxiangyuan (DXY), one of the country’s most popular health and science portals, published an article saying that Lianhua Qingwen had no effect in preventing Covid-19.
The article itself sparked a public backlash, accusing the site of discrediting TCM and “opening up China’s domestic market to foreign investors.”
Earlier this month, DXY’s accounts on several social platforms were abruptly suspended. Chinese censors did not specify any reason for the suspension, but the timing sparked public speculation that the two were related.
Zhong did not mention the public debate over DXY’s suspension in his speech.
This article was first published in the South China Morning Post.