Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), one of the most commonly used complementary and alternative medicines, has been receiving increasing attention among elderly patients. However, epidemiological reports and prescription patterns of geriatric TCM users are few. The aim of this study is to use data from a nationwide cohort database to analyze TCM use by the geriatric population in Taiwan from 2005 to 2009.
TCM outpatient claims data was obtained from the Taiwan National Health Insurance database. Data for elderly patients aged 65 years and older were included in the analysis during the study period. The demographic data, disease distributions, and frequencies and prescription patterns of TCM use by the geriatric population were analyzed.
The geriatric cohort included 97,210 patients, in which 46,883 patients (48%) had used TCM at least once, with a total of 723,478 TCM outpatient visits. Of these, 175,857 visits (24.3%) were prompted by "diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue"; more than half of patients with such diseases were treated using acupuncture and traumatology manipulative therapies. Overall, among the 552,835 visits during which Chinese herbal products (CHP) were prescribed, Shu-Jing-Huo-Xie-Tang and Dan Shen (Radix Salvia Miltiorrhizae) were the most frequently prescribed herbal formula and single herb, respectively, for elderly patients. In addition, Shu-Jing-Huo-Xie-Tang was also the most prescribed herbal formula for the most common disease categories of "diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue" among TCM elderly patients, followed by Du-Huo-Ji-Sheng-Tang, and Shao-Yao-Gan-Cao-Tang.
This study elucidated the TCM utilization patterns of the geriatric population. However, additional studies are warranted to determine the safety and efficacy of these CHPs for use by elderly patients in further clinical trials.