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J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Aug;18(8):731-43. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0389. Epub 2012 Jul 17.

Oral Chinese herbal medicine for improvement of quality of life in patients with stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review.

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  • 1Traditional and Complementary Medicine Program, RMIT Health Innovations Research Institute, WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia .



This study evaluates published clinical trials of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that employ a health-related quality of life (HRQoL) outcome measure.


Searches were conducted in April 2011 on MEDLINE, Embase, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, CINAHL, Scopus, and Chinese databases (CNKI, CQVIP, WANFANG). Randomized controlled trials involving oral administration of CHM formulae or single herb, with or without blinding, compared to placebo, no treatment, routine pharmacotherapy control, or CHM plus routine pharmacotherapy versus routine pharmacotherapy, with a HRQoL questionnaire as an outcome measure were identified. The methodological quality was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias assessment.


A total of 27 studies involving 1966 patients were identified. St. George Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) or Cai's QoLQ were used in 13 and 14 studies, respectively. Assessment of the Cochrane risk of bias revealed adequate sequence of generation in 10 studies and adequate allocation concealment in 1 study; double blinding was not described adequately in any studies. Seventeen (17) studies addressed incomplete outcome data, and 17 studies were free of selective reporting. The main results of meta-analysis showed improvement of total HRQoL scores (SGRQ and Cai's QoLQ) when CHM was compared to no treatment (-6.07 [-9.21, -2.93] and -0.20 [-32, -0.07], respectively) and for CHM plus routine pharmacotherapy versus routine pharmacotherapy (-5.15 [-7.26, -3.05]) and (-0.25 [-0.37, -0.13]).


While the results of CHM on HRQoL for stable COPD sufferers were promising, they need to be interpreted with caution due to methodological problems, which should be addressed in future trials.

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