Chinese Study of Herbal HIV/AIDS Treatment ‘Scientifically Worthless,’ Asian Wall Street Journal Reports
An ongoing Chinese clinical study of an herbal medicine to treat HIV/AIDS is "so flawed it is scientifically worthless," the Asian Wall Street Journal reports. Researchers at the Enwei Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1997 began testing the effectiveness of quiankunning, an herbal compound composed of extracts from 14 different herbs that have been used "for centuries." Researchers did not establish a control group in the study design, claiming that the practice is "immoral because it tricks" participants into thinking they are receiving treatment when they may be receiving a placebo. Among 31 HIV-positive farmers from the Sichuan province who have completed the study, as many as eight "started and stopped taking the medicine at will" and their duration of treatment ranged from nine months to four years; the final results of the study did not take these variations into account, the Journal reports. In addition, the study demonstrated "only mixed results" on the compound's ability to lower patients' blood viral levels or to increase CD4+ T cell counts. However, the company said in the study's conclusion, "For HIV/AIDS patients who took quiankunning, it was effective toward stabilizing or even during a certain time of raising (white blood cell) levels and inhibiting" the virus. Enwei officials admit that several of their studies do not "adhere to international standards," but contend that the Chinese State Drug Administration has not issued rules that would allow companies to test and market their products. Enwei, which spent $4 million developing quiankunning, sells the product in Africa and Southeast Asia, but not in China, for about $60 for a month's supply. The State Drug Administration did not respond to requests for comment, the Journal reports (Chang, Asian Wall Street Journal, 7/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.