Recommendations for the Use and Practice of TCM
In August 1989, the Secretary for Health and Welfare appointed a Working Party on Chinese Medicine (WPCM) to review and to make recommendations on the use and practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in Hong Kong. The objectives were to ensure patients' safety, promote the proper use and good practice of TCM, recognize the role of TCM in the health care system, and facilitate its further development. The development of TCM based on the strength of its heritage was identified as a guiding principle. The report of the Working Party on Traditional Medicine was published in October 1994 .
While Western medicine remains the mainstream of the health care system in Hong Kong, TCM continues to enjoy considerable popularity. Drinking herbal teas or herbal tonics made from Chinese medicinal materials is a common practice among people of the community. The number of TCM practitioners in Hong Kong is estimated between 4 000 and 10 000. Most of them (76%) have practised in Hong Kong for more than 10 years, 42% more than 25 years. Mostly, they have gone through some form of training, e.g., full time TCM courses or apprenticeship. At present, there is no established system of TCM courses or schools .
More than 59% of the traditional Chinese medicines are imported, mostly from China, including about 80% of proprietary Chinese medicines and 80-90% of raw or processed medicinal materials. At present, there are some 30 processing workshops and 60 manufacturing establishments, 100 wholesalers of raw or processed Chinese medicinal material, 200-300 wholesalers of proprietary Chinese medicines, and 1 600 retail herbal shops. Proprietary Chinese medicines are available from pharmacies, drugstores and herbal shops .
Controls on the quality of Chinese medicinal materials and proprietary medicines are only incidental, e.g., the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap 138) requires control for adulteration with Western drugs (control only for proprietary Chinese medicines). Labelling is regulated under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132) which prohibits the sale of drugs with indications that are not appropriate. As there is no specific control on traditional Chinese medicines for the purposes of import and export, registration, sale, dispensing, purchase, over-the-counter sales of Chinese medicines without prescription from TCM practitioners are common. Licences are only required for Chinese medicinal materials in proprietary form, not for raw or processed Chinese medicinal materials .
The Working Party on Chinese Medicines recommended  registration of TCM practitioners to safeguard the patients' interests and to provide a framework for the future development of TCM, and this was widely supported. From the Working Party's point of view, registration will help to enhance the status of TCM practitioners and increase public confidence in this profession.
About one third of the almost 5 800 Chinese medicinal materials listed in the Chinese Herbal Medicines Dictionary is available in Hong Kong. The Working Party on Chinese Medicines regards them as safe for general use, except for about 50 herbs with a narrow safety margin, which might be toxic and should be brought under control. It was recommended to draw up a list of these herbs and to license manufacturing establishments, because control on processors and manufacturers of Western drugs under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance could not be automatically extended to those of Chinese medicines. Licences should be issued annually for the processing and manufacture of traditional Chinese medicines at registered premises. The Working Party also recommended a licensing system for proprietary Chinese medicines which could be based on certification from the place of origin, where such certification is considered by the respective government as evidence of scientific assessment, clinical trial and relevant research .