Could COVID-19 bring a shift in the alternative medicine industry?
Amidst this global pandemic, the fundamental priority of individuals and societies should be to stay safe and healthy. Not only has this led to a spike in demand for cleaning products such as sanitisers and disinfectants, which protect against contracting COVID-19 from external sources, but also a rise in demand for immunity boosting supplements and medicine, which serve to strengthen the immune system from within. An industry that has benefitted from this surge in demand is that of alternative medicine, contributed particularly by the growth of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic Medicine.
In this report, we seek to cast light on the trends in the alternative medicine industry, particularly focussing on TCM and Ayurvedic Medicine. We will examine alternative medicine companies making waves in these times, and explore what the future could possibly look like for this sector. The Big Picture Traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) is an important, but often overlooked segment of healthcare. Found in almost every country, its demand by consumers, regulatory acceptance, and medical usage has been on the rise, and is likely to continue to grow in the coming years. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023, the promotion of universal health coverage by integrating TCM services into healthcare service delivery and self-health care is one of the WHO’s three strategic objectives. Additionally, the number of WHO member states with a national policy on TCM has almost quadrupled, from 25 in 1999 to 98 in 2018.
Despite some beliefs that alternative medicines are baseless and/or unscientific, it must be acknowledged that the use of TCM of proven quality, safety, and efficacy contributes to the goal of achieving universal health coverage, and can be complementary to (but likely not a replacement for) modern western medicine. Having addressed the relevance and significance of alternative medicine in the bigger picture of promoting universal health coverage, two significant types of alternative medicine — TCM and Ayurvedic Medicine — also represent thriving global markets. China’s TCM production was worth $48 billion in 2017, while the global Ayurveda market was valued at $4.5 billion in the same year, with expectations of the latter growing to $14.9 billion by 2026. Their combined value of $52.5 billion represented a small yet significant share (5.61 percent) of the global pharmaceuticals market, which stood at $934.8 billion in 2017. With the TCM and Ayurveda markets representing large players in the global economy, they are definitely deserving of deeper exploration.
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