Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a popular form of health care in Macao. Many of the people still consult doctors and practitioners of TCM. In addition, a very high percentage of the population regularly uses TCM in preparing soups, herbal teas or herbal tonics as supplementary food. In view of this situation, the Health Authority realized several years ago that it was crucial to establish laws and other regulations to improve the quality, efficacy and safety of these medicines, and to define the professional backgrounds and technical skills for trading in and dispensing pharmaceutical products, the most important aspects.
The first Chinese traditional pharmacy was registered in the Health Department in 1936, and by 1990, there were already 102 licensed traditional Chinese pharmacies. Since the law regulating licensing was very old, it could not deal with updated technological requirements developed in the last two decades. The new law, Decreta-Lei n 53/94/M, was enacted in November 1994 and aimed at better public health through adequate licensing of medicines, import, export and wholesalers companies, dispensing pharmacies, and pharmacists and other technicians of traditional pharmacies. Based on this law, a list which includes 456 types of traditional medicinal material which may only be sold in Chinese pharmacies of Macao was prepared. The list consists of two sub-lists: Part 1. - toxic traditional Chinese materials; and Part 2. - common therapeutic traditional Chinese materials. Under this law, a simple but effective registration system for imported traditional medicines, the so-called "alternative registration system" started to be implemented. Only traditional medicines which have been registered in a country can be imported into the Macao market; but for those from Hong Kong, Singapore and other countries without a registration system at the moment, the importer must provide analytical certificates issued by the manufacturer or recognized laboratories .