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Cyprus a ‘stepping stone’ to Europe for China


CYPRUS could very well become China’s medical stepping stone to Europe following concrete moves by the health ministry to attract Chinese investment, including a medical centre offering traditional Chinese medicine alongside conventional treatment, Health Minister Stavros Malas has said.

"The fact there is an interest is a given,” Malas told state broadcaster CyBC a few days after he returned from an official visit to China.

Malas met with his Chinese counterpart, Chen Zu, a week ago when they discussed "collaboration venues in the medical field,” a Health Ministry announcement said.

China is looking for "a base to use for its financial activities and in my opinion, Cyprus lends itself to this opportunity,” Malas said.

China has shown interest in the following three prospects, Malas said: to set up a drugs manufacturing factory in Cyprus; to set up a research foundation; and to see a Medical Centre "combining traditional and conventional (Chinese) medicine”.

Cyprus, as "the gateway to Europe” could enable China to use its resources in setting up a pharmaceutical company manufacturing innovative medicines which could be done "in conjunction with academic and research activity from Chinese researchers,” Malas said.

Malas – who has served in the Innovative Medicines Initiative between 2008 and 2010 – has been meeting with pharmaceutical players in Cyprus and Europe as part of efforts to boost Cyprus’ participation in European networks.

"The Chinese themselves want a research foundation in Europe so that they can draw on EU funds as well as Chinese funds,” Malas said.

To that end, he suggested the creation of accredited educational foundations which could train EU residents in Chinese traditional medicine.

Malas said that any further comments might "create reservations in interested parties”.

But he did say that the two countries had decided to create workgroups to flesh out Malas’ proposals.

Traditional Chinese medicine includes a broad range of practices from exercises, acupuncture and massage to alternative medicines.

There is some evidence that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for a number of diseases although debate on its effectiveness still rages on.

In China, disease is traditionally understood to be a disharmony between different elements within a person and their environment. A physician, for example, may prescribe herbal medicines to treat a recurring headache or even to prepare a woman’s womb for conception

However, herbal drugs need to have been in use in the EU for 15 years (30 years worldwide) before they can be sold in the market as medicine. Other herbal products can be sold as food supplements but because they are not considered drugs (and should make no health claims), they are not tested by pharmaceutical services.

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