What are TCM doctors’ attitudes towards replacing animal-origin medicinal materials with plant-origin alternatives?
Moorhouse TP., D'Cruze NC., Sun E., Elwin A., Macdonald DW.
The global trade in wildlife affects ~24% of terrestrial vertebrates, and demand for traditional Chinese medicinal materials, is a high profile driver. Among key hopes for reducing the impacts of “TCM” on wildlife are strategies to redirect demand onto plant-origin alternative medicines. Studies demonstrate substantial support such alternatives among regular consumers of TCM, but it remains unknown whether TCM doctors would be willing to prescribe these to their patients. We conducted online questionnaires with 1000 doctors in the People's Republic of China (PRC) who are registered with Chunyu Yisheng Doctor, the largest online provider of healthcare in the PRC. We asked four principal questions: (1) To what extent medical professionals in the PRC felt animal-origin medicinal materials could be replaced with plant-origin alternatives; (2) Whether plant-origin alternatives for specific animal-origin medicinal materials were deemed effective and acceptable by the practitioners; (3) What considerations might influence doctors’ decisions concerning whether to prescribe plant-origin alternatives, and; (4) To what degree doctors’ attitudes were influenced by patients’ attitudes. We found substantial support for the substitution of plant-origin TCM medicinal materials: 86.4% of respondents stated that they were “willing” or “very willing” to do so. This proportion increased with the number of years respondents had been practising. Similarly, 66.8% of responses were in favour of prescribing plant-origin preparations if the animal-origin original was unavailable, with 54.7% in favour even if the original animal-origin preparation was available. Respondents were approximately twice as likely to select a higher probability of prescribing plant-origin alternatives when shown information stating that 92% of frequent TCM users would be likely or very likely to buy plant-origin TCM preparations. TCM doctors’ principal concerns regarding plant-origin alternatives were the medicines’ effectiveness, safety and financial cost to patients; and those who made a comparison indicated that they believed plant-origin medicines to be as effective, safer and less expensive (therefore more attractive) to patients than animal-origin medicines. We conclude that Chinese medical professionals who incorporate TCM into their daily practise would be likely to support initiatives to replace certain animal-origin medicinal materials with plant-origin alternatives.