UK and Chinese drug research and development firms have been urged to band together to develop alternatives to the practice of using endangered animal parts to feed the vast traditional Chinese medicine industry.
The UK's department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has offered to partly fund new Chinese/UK academic collaborations to expand upon its existing research on plant-substance alternatives. It is hoped that finding synthetic or plant-derived alternatives will stamp out the illegal trade in parts and derivatives of endangered animals in China.
“Traditional” drugs are big business in China and other Asian countries, with one quarter of all drug sales in China coming from this market segment. However, products from several endangered species are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, including bear bile (xiong dan) and rhino horn (xi jiao) for anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing remedies and tiger bone (hu gu), which is used as an anti-rheumatic/anti-arthritic.
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