Objectives: Experimental research has shown that herbal and traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) may serve as complements to Western medicine treatments in the control of blood glucose and cardiovascular complications, but population-based studies are limited. We investigated the association between TCM use and subsequent risk of stroke in older patients with diabetes. Study design: The database used in this cohort study contained longitudinal medical claims for one million subjects randomly selected among beneficiaries of a universal health care program in Taiwan. We identified a cohort of patients with diabetes aged 65 years and older who initiated anti-diabetic medications from 2000 to 2012. Patients who had at least two TCM outpatient visits after their initiation of anti-diabetic medications were considered TCM users. Main outcome measures: The incidence of stroke was measured until 2013. Cox regression models with TCM use as a time-dependent variable were used to calculate the adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) comparing TCM use with no use. Results: Over the 13-year period, 17,015 patients were identified; 4912 (28.9%) of them were TCM users. The incidence of stroke during the follow-up (per 1000 person-years) was 22.8 in TCM users and 25.7 in non-users. TCM users had an adjusted HR of 0.93 for the incidence of ischemic stroke (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.83, 1.04) and of 0.89 for developing hemorrhagic stroke (95% CI 0.66, 1.19), compared with non-users. Conclusions: In this study, in older patients receiving Western medicine treatments for diabetes, TCM use was not associated with an increased risk of developing ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.
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