The medicinal value of wildlife is low and the risk is high. The development of herbal and artificial products can help resolve the crisis in the industry

“In total, there are 12,807 kinds of Chinese medicinal materials and 1,581 kinds of animal medicines, accounting for about 12%. Among these resources, 161 species of wild animals are endangered. Among them, rhino horn, tiger bone, musk and bear bile powder are considered to be rare wildlife medicinal materials.” The population of some endangered wild animals, such as pangolins, tigers and leopards, has declined significantly due to the demand for medicinal medicines, said Dr. Sun Quanhui, a scientist with the World Animal Protection Society, at the 2020 expert seminar of “Medicine for Humanity” on November 26.

In recent years, driven by international trade and commercial interests, rare and endangered wild animals are generally facing greater survival pressure, and the huge consumption demand of traditional medicine is one of the important reasons for their extinction.

“The medicinal effects of wild animals have actually been overstated,” Sun said. In the past, wild animals were not easy to obtain, so medicinal materials were relatively scarce, but that did not mean their medicinal effects were magical. Some false commercial claims often use the scarcity of wild animal medicine as a selling point, misleading consumers to buy related products, which not only intensifies the hunting and captive breeding of wild animals, but also further drives up the demand for medicinal wild animals.

According to the report, Chinese medicinal materials include herbs, mineral medicines and animal medicines, among which herbal medicines account for about 80 percent, which means that most of the effects of wildlife medicines can be replaced by a variety of Chinese herbal medicines. In ancient times, wild animal medicines were not readily available, so they were not widely used or included in many common recipes. Many people’s beliefs about wildlife medicine stem from the “scarcity is valuable” misconception that the rarer a medicine is, the more effective it is and the more valuable it is.

As a result of this consumer mentality, people are still willing to pay more for wildlife products from the wild because they believe they are better than farmed animals, sometimes when farmed wildlife is already on the market for medicinal purposes. Therefore, the development of a pharmaceutical wildlife farming industry will not truly protect endangered species and will further increase the demand for wildlife. Only by reducing the demand for wildlife consumption can we provide the most effective protection for endangered wildlife.

China has always attached great importance to the protection of endangered medicinal wild animals. In the list of wild medicinal materials under state key protection, 18 kinds of medicinal animals under state key protection are clearly listed, and they are divided into first class and second class medicinal materials. For different types of wild animal medicine, the use and protection measures of class I and Class II medicinal materials are also stipulated.

As early as 1993, China banned the trade and medicinal use of rhino horn and tiger bone, and removed the related medicinal materials from the pharmacopoeia. Bear bile was removed from the pharmacopoeia in 2006, and pangolin was removed from the latest edition in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19, the National People’s Congress (NPC) has decided to revise the Wildlife Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for the second time. In addition to banning the consumption of wild animals, it will strengthen epidemic prevention and law enforcement supervision of the wildlife pharmaceutical industry.

And for pharmaceutical companies, there is no advantage in producing and selling medicines and health products containing ingredients from endangered wildlife. First of all, there is a great controversy about the use of endangered wildlife as medicine. Secondly, non-standardized access to raw materials leads to unstable quality of raw materials; Third, it is difficult to achieve standardized production; Fourth, the use of antibiotics and other drugs in the cultivation process makes it difficult to ensure the quality of raw materials of endangered wildlife. These all bring great risk to the market prospect of related enterprises.

According to the report “The Impact of Abandoning endangered Wildlife Products on Companies” published by the World Society for the Protection of Animals and Pricewaterhousecoopers, a possible solution is that companies can actively develop and explore herbal and synthetic products to replace endangered wildlife products. This not only greatly reduces the business risk of the enterprise, but also makes the operation of the enterprise more sustainable. Currently, substitutes for endangered wild animals for medicinal use, such as artificial tiger bones, artificial musk and artificial bear bile, have been marketed or are undergoing clinical trials.

Bear bile is one of the most widely used herbs of endangered wild animals. However, research has shown that a variety of Chinese herbs can replace bear bile. It is an inevitable trend in the future development of the pharmaceutical industry to give up wild animals and actively explore herbal medicine and artificial synthetic products. Relevant enterprises should comply with the national policy orientation of protecting medicinal endangered wild animals, reduce their dependence on medicinal endangered wild animals, and continuously enhance their sustainable development ability while protecting medicinal endangered wild animals through industrial transformation and technological innovation.

Post time: Jul-27-2021