Research Papers:

Traditional Chinese patent medicines for cancer treatment in China: a nationwide medical insurance data analysis

Min Wu _, Peng Lu, Luwen Shi and Shao Li

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:38283-38295. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5711

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Min Wu1, Peng Lu3, Luwen Shi1, Shao Li2

1Department of Pharmacy Administration and Clinical Pharmacy, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China

2MOE Key Laboratory of Bioinformatics and Bioinformatics Division, TNLIST/Department of Automation, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

3Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Correspondence to:

Shao Li, e-mail: [email protected]

Luwen Shi, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: traditional Chinese medicine, cancer treatment, medical insurance, nationwide survey, herb-drug network

Received: July 21, 2015     Accepted: September 30, 2015     Published: October 13, 2015


Based on the nationwide survey into inpatients' utilization of the health service covered by China's urban basic medical insurance from 2008 to 2010, we analyzed the use rate, cancer profile and combined use of anticancer Chinese patent medicines (CPMs) on 51,382 insured cancer patients by using statistical, bi-clustering and network methods. We found that 42.4% of 51,382 cancer patients used 33 anticancer CPMs, and 51.7% used 71 anticancer Western medicines (WMs). The CPMs were most often used in lung (52%) and nasopharynx (52%) cancer patients, and least in bladder cancer (21%) and leukemia of unspecified cell type (21%) patients. The cost per patient for all 33 anticancer CPMs was 2069RMB, lower than that of the WMs (3458RMB). The cancer profile of commonly used CPMs and WMs for the top 17 cancers (>500 sampled patients) were provided, indicating anticancer CPMs had a broad spectrum of cancers and lacked selectivity in cancer treatment (CPM mean CV = 49%; WM mean CV = 152%). Moreover, 24.8% of the cancer patients used both CPMs and WMs, and CPM-WM combined use networks were constructed for four major cancers. This first nationwide analysis revealed the use characteristics and herb-drug combined use patterns of insurance covered anticancer CPMs in China. The study offers valuable information to guide future studies of the precision, safety and standard use of CPMs.

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