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October 2021

Vet Hum Toxicol. 1997 Apr; 39(2): 106-14.

The difficulty in handling poisonings associated with Chinese traditional medicine: a poison control center experience for 1991-1993.

Deng JF, Lin TJ, Kao WF, Chen SS.

Department of Medicine, Veterans General Hospital-Taipei, Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan, Republic of China.

The purpose of this prospective case series was to outline the characteristics of Chinese traditional medicine poisonings and develop essential information for poison prevention and management. All phone inquiries made to the Poison Center related to Chinese traditional medicines from January 1, 1991 to December 31, 1993 were included. Standardized questionnaires were used to capture relevant information. Among the 318 phone inquiries about Chinese traditional medicines, 273 cases were classified as poisonings; and 22 mortalities occurred (6.9%). All of the poisonings occurred because of suicide attempts, accidents, or erroneous or improper use or processing. In our study, 47% of the potential toxic effects of Chinese traditional medicines were either unknown or could not be found in the literature. There existed undefinable uncertainty in attributing the clinical effects to the exposures to Chinese traditional medicines. We recommend that the strategy in handling Chinese traditional medicine poisonings to decrease mortality should be comprised of confirmation of the generic name of the substances and the specific part of the plant used, awareness of improper processing methods, maintenance of records on a broad review of systems and laboratory data, identification of active principles and potential interactions among the individual active agents; verification of histopathologic effects of the toxins; development of information on toxicodynamics and toxicokinetics; intensive supportive care for poisoned patients, and investigation of potential antidotes. There are several regulatory options available to health authorities to control the unrestricted use of these potentially toxic medicines and to help safeguard the public.

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