Although traditional Chinese medicine is widely used, allopathic medicine has been the focus of the health care system in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (Hong Kong SAR) (230).
In a general household survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department of the Government of Hong Kong SAR in 1996, it was reported that traditional Chinese medicine practitioners provide 10.5% of medical consultations. An earlier survey showed that up to 60% of Hong Kong SAR's population had used traditional Chinese medicine either for treatment of disease or maintenance of health. According to the 1996 survey, there are 6890 traditional Chinese medicine practitioners in Hong Kong SAR, of whom 66% are full-time practitioners. There are 37 chiropractors practising in Hong Kong SAR (45).
There are approximately 2000 types of Chinese medicinal herbs for sale in Hong Kong SAR. About 3300 brands of proprietary traditional Chinese medicines are available, of which 500 brands are manufactured locally. Information provided by the Government's Census and Statistics Department showed that in 1998, 500 trading organizations were involved in the import/export, wholesale distribution, and retail sales of traditional Chinese medicines.
Until recently, there was no specific legal control or recognition of traditional Chinese medicine in Hong Kong SAR. Regulations fell under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, which controls the sale of drugs unfit for human consumption, and the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, which prohibits the adulteration of traditional Chinese medicines with allopathic drugs.
The Basic Law of Hong Kong SAR provides that the Government shall formulate policies to develop allopathic and traditional Chinese medicine and to improve medical and health services. In 1989, to promote the proper use and good practice of traditional Chinese medicine, the Secretary for Health and Welfare set up the Working Party on Chinese Medicine. The Party was mandated to review the use and practice of traditional Chinese medicine in Hong Kong SAR. In 1995, the Secretary for Health and Welfare appointed the Preparatory Committee on Chinese Medicine. In March 1997 and March 1999, the Committee submitted reports on the regulation and development of traditional Chinese medicine in Hong Kong SAR.
In his 1997 policy address, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR announced that for the protection of public health, a statutory framework providing legal recognition to traditional Chinese medicine and appropriate regulation of its practice, use, and trade would be established. The Chinese Medicine Bill was drawn up in 1998 and was introduced in the Legislative Council in February 1999.
The Legislative Council passed the Chinese Medicine Ordinance, which is based on self-regulation, in July 1999. The Chinese Medicine Council - a regulatory body comprised of traditional Chinese medicine providers, trade professionals, academics, lay persons, and Government officials - is responsible for implementing the regulatory measures. The Department of Health will provide administrative support and enforce the regulations.
A registration system for practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine will be created in 2000. Likewise, a registration and licensing system to regulate the manufacture and trade of traditional Chinese medicines will be set up in phases in 2000. The safety, efficacy, and quality of proprietary traditional Chinese medicines will be assessed before they are registered. The dispensation, storage, and labelling of traditional Chinese medicines will also be regulated.
Education and training
Educational institutions offer refresher courses for providers and dispensers of traditional Chinese medicine to upgrade their knowledge and skills. Undergraduate courses in traditional Chinese medicine practice and pharmacy have recently been introduced at local universities.