BEIJING - China's top traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) chief defended medicines made from bear bile citing a lack of an effective substitute.
Wang Guoqiang, vice-minister of health and director of the State Administration of TCM, made remarks on the sidelines of the annual session of the 11th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, which opened Saturday.
"We should make good use of animal-based medicines on the basis of proper animal protection, which is also in line with the country's relevant laws and regulations," he told China Daily.
Care for animals is a symbol of civilization but, "the practical situation has to be considered as well", he said.
"So far we have found no substitute for bear bile, which has proven medical efficacy and is irreplaceable," he stressed.
According to Wang, precious TCM medicines made from animals such as the tiger bone, musk, rhinoceros horn, and antelope horn have also been used for thousands of years in China.
Previously, accusations of animal cruelty have been made against a Fujian-based drug company that makes medicine from bear bile, after it made an application for an initial public offering.
"It's totally correct to heed animal welfare and we are in fact carrying out research on substitutes such as animal-based drugs, be it natural or synthetic," he said.
"It's definitely no easy job and will take a long time," he said.
By 2006, China had 68 registered bear farms where about 7,000 black bears were kept for bile extraction, statistics from the State Forestry Administration showed.
Source: Asia One