Mix of Western, Chinese medicine promising against COVID-19: Taiwan

Photo from the National Research Institute of Chinese Medicine website

TAIPEI (CNA) — Treatments that combine the use of Western and Chinese medicine have shown promising preliminary results in COVID-19 patients in Taiwan, the National Research Institute of Chinese Medicine (NRICM) said Monday.

Of the 14 COVID-19 patients the NRICM has helped treat, 12 were discharged from the hospital within 8-10 days of when the drugs were first given to patients, and they have not shown side affects from the medications so far, NRICM Director Su Yi-Chang (蘇奕彰) told CNA in an interview.

The other two patients were only confirmed with the disease recently, Su said, so they are still undergoing treatment.

Though the mix seems promising, Su did not disclose the specific medications used and said they would only be revealed by the research team when they are included in the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) treatment guidelines.

Ko Fu-yang (柯富揚), the head of the National Union of Chinese Medical Doctors’ Association, told CNA that the guidelines for the use of Chinese medicine in COVID-19 treatment have passed a review by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) and will be sent to the CECC’s advisory team for discussion.

The NRICM team began treating COVID-19 patients at Tri-Service General Hospital and Taichung Veterans General Hospital on April 3, according to Su, but an NRICM research team he leads began looking into Chinese medicine to treat COVID-19 patients in January.

Building on Su’s experience with treating SARS patients with Chinese medicine in 2003, the team sifted through research papers to come up with suitable prescriptions for patients with varying degrees of severity of COVID-19, Su said.

So far, the team has devised four prescriptions, one each aimed at mild cases, moderate cases, and severe cases of COVID-19, as well as one that helps those in the recovery stage of the disease, Su said.

The prescriptions, when used in combination with Western medicine, have been effective in stabilizing the heart rate and blood pressure of COVID-19 patients, as well as alleviating their fevers, Su said.

The research team has also found that some Chinese medicine can fuse with spike proteins on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, Su said.

This means that these medicines can prevent the spike proteins from attaching to human cell receptors, thereby preventing the virus from infecting the human body.

Another benefit of the treatment is that it can help suppress a cytokine storm, an overreaction of the body’s immune system that can be deadly to the patient, Su said.