More Stringent Regulations on Chinese Proprietary Medicines in Singapore

The Singaporean Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on August 20, 2002, that they are implementing new regulatory controls over Chinese proprietary medicines (CPMs). Due to the rise of recent health related problems as a result of CPM consumption, the Ministry is tightening its control of the marketing and testing of Chinese traditional medicines. The new regulations will include additional labeling requirements for CPMs as well as more comprehensive test reports issued by accredited laboratories.

In recent years, CPMs have been marketed in packaging similar to Western medicines. For example, a weight loss medicine called Slim 10 is a CPM, however, its quality of packaging is similar to a Western product. This has led to a great deal of confusion when consumers purchasing these products believe that Western companies manufactured them. Unlike Western medicines, CPMs cannot be easily tested due to the natural ingredients it contains. These ingredients with complex chemical constituents are far from the synthetic chemical based substances that are found in Western medicines. Thus, in order to prevent consumer confusion and to better inform the public of the difference between Western medicines and CPMs, the Ministry is requiring all CPMs to prominently display “Allowed for sale as a Chinese Proprietary Medicine” on its packaging. This additional labeling will help distinguish CPMs from Western medicines regardless of the type of packaging. All CPMs must display this label beginning January 1, 2003.

CPMs will also be subjected to more rigorous testing requirements. Beginning January 1, 2004, all CPMS must be tested by accredited laboratories. The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) of Singapore will help to establish a panel of local and foreign accredited laboratories that will be able to issue test reports. The more stringent testing requirements are to ensure the reliability of the test reports issued.

The HSA will also be implementing an audit program to ensure that overseas CPM manufacturers intending to sell their products in Singapore will be subjected to regular Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) audits.