Eastern Tradition Meeting Modern Needs

There are many inherent problems that are facing the integrative process, namely:

I. Traditional methodology – Unacceptable to the Western medical profession.
II. Single active ingredient V’s complex formulae in pharmacological R&D.
III. Cultural and political gap between East and West – bilateral agreement needed.
IV. The hidden agenda of economic interest and protectionism of the powerful multi national pharmaceutical concerns.
V. Lack of legal framework for the integrative process.
VI. Integrative medicine needs to establish a body of knowledge and institutions for medical education and research.
VII. Quality. and safety issues remain unsolved for herbal medicine to be legally licensed by governments.

But there is also a positive under-current of support that ensures the future of integrated medicine.

I. Patients voting with their bodies – Demands for new approaches to treatment, increasing rapidly.
II. Conventional medicine cannot deal with many complex    diseases. Patients are reacting to side effects.
III. Economic pressure in the rising cost of national healthcare.
IV. Modern lifestyles of stress related immunological, emotional, allergic diseases, dictate changes in our approach to treatment.
V. DNA and molecular medicine is pointing to a comprehensive approach involving patients lifestyles.

The above subjects can be discussed at length but due to the limited time given to me for this report I can only give you an outline.

Lastly, let me conclude this short report by stating the advantages in clinical efficiency of integrative medicine to the economics of national healthcare. We know that the use of acupuncture in treating musculoskeletal disorders and chronic pain in patients is far more cost effective compared to the use of drugs. Chinese herbal medicines also cost less than their pharmaceutical counterparts. Integrative medicine as a whole will certainly reduce the cost of the national healthcare budget. This is an important factor especially for the Third World, with limited resources to modernise their hospitals and healthcare system. The developing world needs to be less dependant on western drugs and more efficient in utilising it’s natural and traditional resources. The era of East West ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ has given way to the era of ‘medicine diplomacy’. Ironically, Nixon’s historic visit to China, resulting in James Reston’s headline report on acupuncture anaesthesia was a major milestone in the influence of acupuncture in the West. Since most of us agree that the trend of 21st Century medicine is towards globalisation and integration, may I therefore end this report by calling for urgent effective action by governments, clinicians and researchers to speed up this process of integration in medicine to ensure better health for mankind.

Professor Man Fong Mei

Summer 2000