TCM companies eyeing global market

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Headquartered in a traditional courtyard in downtown Beijing, Tongrentang (TRT), a pharmaceutical giant with a history of more than 300 years, is increasing its international reach with its legacy products: traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

TRT began expanding abroad in 1993 and currently runs 90 stores in 17 countries and regions around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Southeast Asia.

TRT deputy general manager Ding Yongling said the company plans a new round of international expansion with 100 outlets abroad by 2015.

TRT uses its own pharmacies and Chinese physicians who are licensed by local authorities to promote TCM products as well as TCM culture. The company sets up museums to showcase the best of traditional Chinese medicine and cooperates with Confucius Institutes to conduct lectures and offer free TCM consultations.

"The core strategy of our international development is to foster enthusiasm and trust in TCM among foreign patients by showcasing its effectiveness and relatively few side effects. We have sensed a widespread acceptance of and growing demand for TCM," Ding said.

TRT epitomizes traditional Chinese medicine's increasing international presence.

Growing international demand is driving a steady increase in exports. According to the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products, exports of TCM in the first three quarters of 2013 reached 2.27 billion U.S. dollars, a year-on-year increase of 26.11 percent.

Aside from TRT, which has tapped into its time-honored brand, other TCM companies have developed their own paths to international growth.

Instead of taking the easy option of registering TCM products as foods or food supplements, Tasly, a pharmaceutical company dedicated to modern TCM, has made great efforts and investments to have their products approved as medicines. Their signature product, Danshen Plus Capsule, is currently undergoing phase 3 testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, if it passes, will enter U.S. pharmacies.

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