Background: The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture, has substantially increased in western countries in the past decade. However, informative data concerning large-scale investigations of acupuncture used in the Chinese society remain rare so far. DESIGN AND OUTCOME MEASURE: The complete datasets of acupuncture outpatient reimbursement claims from 1996 to 2002 were supplied by the National Health Insurance Research Database, Taiwan, and the usage frequencies and characteristics of the acupuncture users, as well as the disease categories that were treated by acupuncture in Taiwan were analyzed.
Results: At the end of 2002, among the 21,869,478 total valid beneficiaries of National Health Insurance (NHI), 1,362,351 subjects (6.2%) used acupuncture during this year, but 4,948,464 subjects (22.6%) had used it for the whole 7-year period since 1996. A mean increment of 1,191,164 (53.6%) new users had been involved yearly. Among all those acupuncture users, a female predominance was observed (female:male = 1.12:1), and the age distribution displayed a peak at around the 40s, followed by the 30s and 50s. Private TCM clinics provided more acupuncture usage (82.0%) than did private TCM hospitals (13.7%). The disease categories treated mostly by acupuncture were diseases of the musculoskeletal system (46.2%); injury (41.8%); diseases of the nervous system (3.5%); and symptoms, signs, and ill-defined conditions (2.7%).
Conclusions: Twenty-three percent (23%) of people in Taiwan had used acupuncture during this 7-year period. Musculoskeletoal and neurologic disorders were two major categories commonly treated with acupuncture.