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Nephron Clin Pract. 2012;120(4):c215-22. doi: 10.1159/000341120. Epub 2012 Oct 5.

Does Chinese herb nephropathy account for the high incidence of end-stage renal disease in Taiwan?

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Graduate Institute of Clinical Pharmacy, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.



The incidence of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in Taiwan ranks highest in the world, but the incidence of Chinese herb nephropathy (CHN) is unknown in this country where Chinese herb use is common.


The etiologies of incident ESRD cases from 2000 to 2004 in a single tertiary referral medical center in Taiwan were independently reviewed by two nephrologists through medical records and telephone interview. Patients with obvious causes of ESRD were not diagnosed with CHN, in spite of Chinese herb use. Three categories of CHN (A, B and C) were defined according to the stringency of evidence.


Obvious causes of ESRD were identified in 1,359 out of 1,696 newly diagnosed ESRD patients. Among the remainders, 263 had histories of Chinese herb use; 164 patients (mean age 52.7 ± 13.2 years, female 71.6%) had CHN (category A: 51, category B: 38 and category C: 75). Among the three categories, there was no difference in age, gender, body mass index (BMI) or elapsed time from Chinese herb use to the detection of renal failure. In comparison with non-CHN patients (n = 99), more CHN patients were female, had lower BMI, lower blood pressure, shorter duration of Chinese herb use, less severe proteinuria, smaller kidney size, lower levels of hemoglobin and higher serum chloride levels (all p values <0.01).


Based on highly stringent diagnostic criteria, nearly 10% of incident ESRD cases were due to CHN. CHN represents a significant cause of ESRD in Taiwan.

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