Oriental medicine group to make treatment guidelines on new coronavirus

Kim Eun-young  Published 2020.01.30  14:29  Updated 2020.01.30 16:11


- Medical community calls for verifying Korean medicine’s safety, efficacy

Oriental medicine practitioners said combining Western medicine with traditional Korean medicine could work effectively to treat patients infected with the new coronavirus.

The group of Oriental practitioners said it would select Oriental medical doctors to treat patients in case the novel coronavirus spreads in Korea.

Based on their treatment experiences, the Oriental medical group will establish their treatment guidelines for the novel coronavirus, officially named 2019-nCoV.

Choi Hyuk-yong, president of the Association of Korean Medicine (AKOM), speaks at a news conference on Wednesday.

Choi Hyuk-yong, president of the Association of Korean Medicine (AKOM), said the association would form a task force to respond to the infectious disease, at a news conference on Wednesday. He also noted that AKOM would establish an expert group to prepare for Oriental medicine treatment guidelines for the new coronavirus.

“We held a meeting of the task force team on Wednesday to have Oriental medicine practitioners directly see the confirmed patients and make treatment guidelines,” Choi said. “We delivered our message to Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo and received his answer that he would review such necessity.”

Korean Oriental medicine practitioners will follow the initial treatment guidelines announced by the Chinese authorities and analyze Korean patients’ symptoms to create Korean Oriental medicine guidelines, Choi went on to say. To do so, Oriental medicine practitioners need to see the confirmed patients directly, he added.

When SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) hit Korea in 2003 and 2015, respectively, Korean physicians did not combine Oriental medicine to treat affected patients. However, the Chinese health authorities used both Western and traditional Chinese medicine and said the combination was effective.

To respond to the outbreak of the latest coronavirus, China has announced treatment guidelines that include traditional Chinese medicine.

AKOM said Chinese physicians are treating confirmed patients with the new coronavirus, according to the protocols and treatment guidelines designated by the National Health Commission, which include traditional Chinese medicine treatment.

The Chinese medicine treatment guidelines describe clinical symptoms so that physicians can distinguish between suspected patients and confirmed patients and how to treat them accordingly.

In specific, the treatment period is divided into the medical observation period for suspect patients and the clinical treatment period for confirmed patients. The clinical period is again divided into four categories depending on symptoms – early stage, midstage, severe stage and recovery stage -- and each of the four requires different treatment.

“The Chinese government recommends using traditional herbal medicine in the early stage of the infection. There is no reason that Korea should hesitate to use Oriental medicine to treat the new coronavirus infection,” Choi said.

Choi said he also asked the health and welfare ministry to seek specific ways so that Oriental medicine practitioners could help the treatment of suspected and confirmed patients. “Oriental medicine treatment will reduce the incidence of the infectious disease, contain the virus, and lower mortality,” he added.

Choi also noted that AKOM would ask Oriental medicine practitioners to volunteer for making the new coronavirus treatment guidelines, verify their qualifications, and announce the list.

However, the Western medical community argued that Oriental medicine practitioners should prove traditional medicine’s safety and efficacy first before they push for the use of Oriental medicine for patients with infectious diseases.

“While we haven’t confirmed whether Oriental medicine treatment is safe for patients, it is none sense to apply Oriental medicine to the infected patients and make related treatment guidelines,” a doctor said.

China and Korea have different healthcare environments, and just because Beijing included traditional Chinese medicine in the infectious disease treatment guidelines does not mean Seoul should follow suit, he added.

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