Do you believe this?
IBF received on March 26 the following message from Dave Garchelis from BSG. Dear BSG members, These are trying times, and I sincerely hope each of you can stay safe from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am sure that you are following instructions from your government, possibly interrupting some field projects. Those of you who were planning to attend the IBA conference in Montana in September should also know that that has been postponed (date not yet set). I have not yet heard about what’s going to happen with the IUCN World Conservation Congress scheduled for June in France (changes will be announced here).

Meanwhile, I wanted to address a recent claim that you may have seen about bear bile being used in China to fight the virus. Most of the information that I’ve seen by western media outlets has been wrong, and intentionally misleading, apparently using this as an opportunity to further certain agendas (and so I’m not even going to provide those links here).

I provide below what I believe to be accurate information, based on my reading of the peer-reviewed literature (and interest in the subject matter). Let’s just let the facts be facts, so people don’t have to choose what to believe; we can then make our own ethical judgements from there.

The recent news concerns Tanreqing (TRQ), a TCM non-prescription proprietary drug formulation consisting of 5 parts: 3 herbs (84%), bear bile powder (9%), and goral horn (7%). It was approved by the China Food and Drug Administration in 2012. TRQ has been widely used in China for upper respiratory infections and pneumonia (inflammatory airway diseases: note that the chemical UDCA in bear bile is an anti-inflammatory, as are the herbs used in the formulation). A large number of clinical trials have been conducted on the efficacy of this drug combination, compared to antibiotics and antivirals, or in combination with these, for treatment of acute bronchitis, community-acquired pneumonia, and other respiratory and pulmonary diseases, with some evidence of added medicinal benefits provided by TRQ (reduced symptoms, hastened recovery). It has also shown some efficacy in the treatment of the original SARS-1 and H1N1 flu.

Western drugs have been the first course of action against COVID-19 (SARS-2) in China, with TCM being a secondary treatment, often in combination with western drugs (but different doctors may suggest different protocols). TRQ was used for some very ill patients, in an attempt to improve their breathing (reduce swelling in the lungs). Results of those trials have not yet been published.

This drug is not a work-around against China’s new restrictions on consumption of wild animals. It has always been an injectable drug, and the bile is from farmed bears (not bear parts bought in wildlife markets or involved in illegal wildlife trade).

I hope this information is helpful. It is not meant as any sort of endorsement of this drug, or the medicinal use of bear bile – just factual information that bear people might be interested in knowing. (If anyone has more information, please do let me know.)

Wishing everyone stays safe,


Bear news and COVID-19, part 1