SINGAPORE - We applaud the suggestion by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong that patients stand to benefit more if traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can complement Western medicine ("TCM, health-care costs among key issues"; July 1).
Making Western medicine and TCM more accessible could lead to better patient outcomes.
The TCM industry in Singapore is ready, with its mature infrastructure - the geographical reach of services and natural wellness products - to take on a more national-based role in supporting the Government's policy to provide quality, dependable, accessible and affordable health care to all.
Under the Beijing Declaration adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in November 2008, traditional medicine was recognised as having an important role in the improvement of public health. The Declaration also supports the integration of traditional medicine into national health systems, and calls on governments to create or improve national policies on traditional medicine.
Acupuncture has been scientifically proven, through controlled trials recognised by the WHO, to be an effective treatment for more than 20 diseases and disorders. Gingko has also been proven beneficial for patients with dementia.
In Singapore, about 76 per cent of the population has used complementary alternative medicine, and of this, TCM accounts for 88 per cent.
The health authorities from the 10 ASEAN nations meet regularly to set standards and regulations on traditional medicine and health supplement products for the region.
Contrary to popular perception, TCM in Singapore is highly regulated.
All Chinese proprietary medicine - that is, products in the finished dosage forms such as tablets, capsules and liquids - are regulated by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and must comply with a set of safety and quality criteria before being allowed to be sold here.
Importers, wholesale dealers and manufacturers of Chinese proprietary medicine are also required to be licensed by the HSA.
The HSA issues public safety notices on a regular basis to keep consumers abreast of the proper usage of TCM products and to alert them to treatments by bogus physicians, on top of random product inspections in the market.
All practising TCM physicians in Singapore are governed by the TCM Practitioners Act. This Act requires all TCM practitioners who undertake the prescribed practice of TCM to be registered with the TCM Practitioners Board, which is under the charge of the Health Ministry.
TCM physicians also have to abide by the Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines for TCM Practitioners issued by the Board.
Singapore Traditional Chinese Medicine Organisations Committee
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.