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The Chinese are giving up their own medicine

Scientists from the ‘Research Institute of Health Development Strategies in Fudan, China have published a comparison of Chinese hospitals practicing traditional Chinese medicine and those practising conventional Western medicine.

Their analysis generated fascinating findings: 'The national statistics from 1999 to 2008 showed similar trends that the percentage of revenue from Western medicine for traditional Chinese medicine hospitals increased from 59.6% in 1999 to 62.2% in 2003 and 66.1% in 2008 while the percentage of revenue from traditional Chinese medicine for traditional Chinese medicine hospitals decreased from 18.0% in 1999, 15.4% in 2003, and 13.7% in 2008.'

'Western medicine has become a vital revenue source for traditional Chinese medicine hospitals in the current Chinese health care environment.'1

I think these figures are relevant in the context of those traditional Chinese medicine enthusiasts who try to convince us that, in China, traditional Chinese medicine and conventional medicine are equal and fully integrated partners. The truth seems to be quite different.

Without believing in it, Mao created traditional Chinese medicine out of a hotchpotch of traditional Chinese treatments that had little to do with each other and were entirely separate entities. Traditional Chinese medicine provided the façade of some healthcare being provided for the masses. Now that China can afford Western medicine, we will see largely ineffective TCM being replaced by effective modern medicine.

Seen from this perspective, the relentless promotion of TCM in the UK and most other Western countries seems like a sick joke.

Professor Edzard Ernst is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter


1. Shen JJ, Wang Y, Lin F, Lu J, Mosely CB, Sun M et al. Trends of increase in western medical services in traditional medicine hospitals in china. BMC Health Serv Res 2011; 11:212