African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines

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Comparison of risks for adverse drug reactions between traditional Chinese medicines and western medicines: A review of Chinese-language literatures

Y Song, Z Ruan, S Yin, Y Bian


Background: This study aimed to compare the risks for adverse drug reactions (ADRs) between  traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) and Western medicines (WMs).
Materials and Methods: A comprehensive review of ADR cases reported in the Chinese-language literatures from January 2006 to December 2011 was conducted to identify the frequency, severity and hazard of ADRs associated with TCMs and WMs. Sort ratio (SR) was employed to compare the ranking of TCMs and WMs. SR>1 when WMs ranked higher than TCMs. For group comparisons, nonparametric Mann-Whitney test was used whenever possible.
Results: A total of 5097 cases were induced by 212 TCMs and 908 WMs according to 3842 reports in the final full-text analysis. In the comparisons for the entire study group, as well as groups by pharmacology category and administration route, most WMs ranked higher than TCMs in occurring frequency, severity and hazard caused by ADRs. The results showed the adverse effects from Chinese medicines were comparatively rare and the risks caused by them were milder than by western medicine-related ADRs.
Conclusion: This study concluded by indicating that TCMs were safe in clinical practice compared with WMs, though not risk free. Improvements in quality control and in the training and regulation of  practitioners could substantially reduce the already low incidence of problems involving TCMs.

Key words: Drug safety, Adverse drug reaction, Traditional Chinese medicines, Complementary medicines, Western medicines

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