The prescribing of Chinese herbal products in Taiwan: a cross-sectional analysis of the national health insurance reimbursement database†

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Abstract

Purpose

The consumption of Chinese herbal products (CHPs) is increasing exponentially. However, the scientific evidence is lacking and there is an urgent requirement for detailed pharmacoepidemiological information on CHP usage. This study was to investigate CHP prescription patterns in Taiwan.

Methods

We carried out a cross-sectional analysis on a cohort of 200 000 patients based on 2004 data from the National Health Insurance (NHI) reimbursement database. Data mining techniques were applied to explore CHP co-prescription patterns.

Results

A total of 46 938 patients had been prescribed CHPs on at least one occasion in 2004. Patients using CHPs were generally female and middle-aged, made more outpatient visits, had fewer hospitalizations and consumed more medical resources than non-users of CHPs. A total of 1 073 030 CHPs were contained within 220 123 prescriptions, for which acute nasopharyngitis was the most common indication. Yan hu suo and Jia Wei Xiao Yao San were the most frequently prescribed single herb (SH) and herbal formula (HF), respectively. The results of the data mining showed that the best predictions were provided by co-prescriptions of ‘Mo yao and Ru xiang’, ‘Ye jiao teng and Suan Zao Ren Tan’ and ‘Dang Gui Nian Tong Tang and Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang’ in the groups of SH-SH, SH-HF and HF-HF, respectively.

Conclusions

This study provides national-level CHP prescription profiles and utilization rates, and documents, for the first time, HF-HF prescription combinations in Chinese medicine (CM) practices in Taiwan. We conclude that more studies are needed to validate the safety and effectiveness of CHP prescriptions. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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