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The evidence-based approach to traditional medicine: An interview with Dr. Iveta Petrova

Posted on February 12th, 2020 by in Pharma R&D

Dr. Iveta Petrova presenting in Beijing

A fruitful collaboration between Elsevier and Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) resulted in Embase adding a new Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) taxonomy to its thesaurus tool Emtree in January 2020. At the same time as the release, BUCM held an evidence-based medicine training and seminar in Beijing to help promote the concept of evidence-based medicine. Elsevier was a sponsor of the event, and was proud to have our own Dr. Iveta Petrova, Embase Lead Product Manager, there to introduce the TCM addition to Emtree.

I recently spoke to Dr. Petrova about this exciting partnership between Elsevier and BUCM.

How did Embase come up with the idea of including TCM in Emtree?

There is a growing interest in traditional medicine as a holistic medical approach by Embase users, as well as a potential source for isolating the active ingredients behind traditional therapies. To achieve that and have a balanced view, our users would need a platform and means to search and appraise the data in a standard way. This is where the structure of Emtree and consistent annotation of concepts in Embase will facilitate a standard process.  

Embase has completed a cooperation project with BUCM. What are your thoughts on this cooperation and the results achieved so far?

Adding the first branch of TCM into Emtree and Embase has been a learning experience on both sides of the collaboration, from looking at therapeutics points by a meridian on the Elsevier side to learning the classification methods by the BUCM team.

What value will the TCM branch of Emtree add to the existing taxonomy, and how will the enhanced Emtree taxonomy help the users in their research?

It is the first classification of such traditional therapies and will give the opportunity to appraise TCM practices at the same time and in the same way as Western medicine. This will aid the evaluation according to the evidence-based medicine grading to make recommendations for different patient groups. In the end, the patients will have a solid evidence base to make their therapeutic decisions.

Who will benefit from the TCM Emtree branch? Will the benefits be restricted to the Chinese scientific community only?

There are research centers on TCM outside of China, as well as interest in holistic approaches and getting the scientific evidence when recommending a therapy. But there are also different type of factors to consider, like the person performing the acupuncture and their level of experience or the effectiveness of therapies. So anyone interested in getting this type of standard information from the scientific literature will have means to run a quick appraisal before a full evaluation.

You recently attended the evidence-based medicine event at BUCM—how was your experience? What did you learn and how could it  be used in the future development of Embase/TCM Emtree?

The long-term Healthy China plan is embraced by many institutions across the country, working on different topics – from specific interventions to best practice nursing. BUCM is looking at a new Life Science department, where the main subject is the human being. They will be exploring the effects of TCM therapies, while measuring the changes in the individuals applying the latest medical device technology. It opens new challenges and opportunities in the combinations of TCM with Western drugs and medical devices.

What other developments with Embase and Emtree can we expect in the future from the Elsevier-BUCM collaboration?

Now that we have finished the work on the acupuncture points, the next big endeavor is the medicinal formulas used in TCM. It includes thousands of different formulations, which apart from the different ingredients also differ in which part of plant is used and exactly how the formulation is prepared.

To learn more about Embase and how it empowers biomedical researchers, click here.

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