Background: Some Chinese herbal products (CHPs) may contain aristolochic acid (AA) or may be adulterated by the herbs suspected of containing AA which is nephrotoxic and carcinogenic. This study aims to identify the risk and the prescription profile of AA-containing CHPs (AA-CHPs) in Taiwan.
Methods: A longitudinal analysis was conducted on a randomly sampled cohort of 200,000 patients using the data from the National Health Insurance (NHI) in Taiwan between 1997 and 2003.
Results: During the 7-year study period, 78,644 patients were prescribed with AA-CHPs; most patients were females, or middle-aged, or both. A total of 526,867 prescriptions were made to use 1,218 licensed AA-CHPs. Over 85% of the AA-exposed patients took less than 60 g of AA-herbs; however, about 7% were exposed to a cumulated dose of over 100 g of Radix et Rhizoma Asari (Xixin), Caulis Akebiae (Mutong) or Fructus Aristolochiae (Madouling). Patients of respiratory and musculoskeletal diseases received most of the AA-CHP prescriptions. The most frequently prescribed AA-CHPs Shujing Huoxie Tang, Chuanqiong Chadiao San and Longdan Xiegan Tang, containing Radix Stephaniae Tetrandrae, Radix et Rhizoma Asari and Caulis Akebiae, respectively.
Conclusion: About one-third of people in Taiwan have been prescribed with AA-CHPs between 1997 and 2003. Although the cumulated doses were not large, further actions should be carried out to ensure the safe use of AA-CHPs.