In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it will include Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in its globally influential medical compendium, known as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
The ICD is a highly influential document categorising thousands of diseases and diagnoses. It influences how physicians make diagnoses, how insurance companies determine coverage, how epidemiologists ground their research and how health officials interpret mortality statistics.
In May 2019, TCM was incorporated into the 11th and the latest version of the ICD, in Chapter 26. It will feature a classification system on traditional medicine.
While the use of herbal medicines, acupuncture and other traditional medical practices has been on the rise, there is still a shortage of global classification and terminology tools for traditional medicine, according to officials with the WHO.
This new chapter is likely to have a profound impact on China, which has been promoting the modernisation of TCM and pushing for TCM to gain acceptance and popularity worldwide. Chinese pharmacologist Tu Youyou was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015 for her research in TCM.
Although the TCM chapter does not discuss particular remedies, WHO says it is meant to give doctors the chance to diagnose patients using both TCM and Western medicine — what it calls “optional dual coding”.
While there are certainly not enough clinical trials and scientific evidence on the benefits of TCM, TCM should not be dismissed, as sometimes, it is all that is available in many parts of the world.
This first step for TCM will change medicine around the world by regulating, researching and integrating traditional medicine products, practitioners and practice into current health systems.
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Lim Guan Yu