Bloomberg Businessweek

The Dark Side of Chinese Medicine

Officials are alarmed over a $13 billion market in herbal injectables
Many traditional-remedy injectables haven’t gone through strict clinical trials

Early on a snowy winter morning in January 2012, Wu Xiaoliang, a 37-year-old farmer, stopped by his local doctor for a headache remedy. At a small clinic near his village outside Quzhou, in eastern China, he received two injections made from traditional Chinese herbs. Hours later, villagers saw him struggling to prop himself up on his moped as he drove home. By noon, he was dead.

What killed Wu was later described in an autopsy report as a “drug allergy.” But doctors couldn’t pinpoint what he was allergic to, because the shots he was given contained dozens, if not hundreds, of different compounds extracted from two herbs.

For centuries, Chinese have bought plant and animal parts from herbalist clinics—everything from simple ginseng to slices

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Bloomberg Businessweek

Bloomberg Businessweek6 min read
What If Whatever It TakesIs Not Enough?
• Countries must overcome nationalist impulses and mistrust to coordinate a global response to the virus
Bloomberg Businessweek3 min read
In Brief
• To help stem the economic fallout from the pandemic, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked Congress to approve a stimulus package worth $1.3t The measure would include fast loans for small businesses and direct payments to workers. • 30 • B
Bloomberg Businessweek4 min read
The (Shaky) Plans to Narrow the Testing Gap
When President Donald Trump finally addressed the nation’s dire shortage of testing capabilities for the coronavirus on March 13, he did what many people do when they seek answers: He turned to Google. But Trump’s announcement that the Alphabet Inc.