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60 diabetics in SGH trial to protect kidney with TCM

by | Apr 1, 2008 | Critical Illnesses | 0 comments

April 1, 2008
30 of them will be given Western drug and the others, a concoction of herbs, in three-month study
By Lee Hui Chieh
INSTEAD of just popping Western-medicine pills, some diabetic patients at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) will soon be drinking a concoction of medicinal herbs.

They will be taking part in a three-month-long study into how well traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can prevent kidney damage in diabetics, compared to the Western drug normally given.

All 60 patients in the study will be given the usual medication to lower their blood-sugar levels and for other conditions such as high cholesterol.

But they will be split into two groups – with half getting enalapril, a commonly prescribed Western drug which protects the kidney, and the other half getting a concoction of nine TCM herbs.

The doctors running the study are Dr Bee Yong Meng, an associate consultant at SGH’s endocrinology department, and Dr Xu Yue, an associate professor of endocrinology at the Shanghai TCM Hospital, now on secondment to the Bao Zhong Tang TCM Centre at SGH.

Diabetic patients whose urine already contains a certain protein – a sign of kidney damage – or whose blood pressure is high, are given medication to lower their blood pressure and protect their kidneys.

Without treatment, patients who already have some kidney damage can end up with kidney failure.

But the medication produces in some patients side effects such as cough, which can be bad enough for them to be taken off the medication, said Dr Bee.

He said if the study yielded favourable results, TCM could become a ‘feasible option’ for patients who cannot tolerate the medication.

‘And if patients prefer TCM, at least we have some evidence to say if they should have it or not,’ he added.

Dr Xu said a similar study on 100 patients she is doing in Shanghai has shown, after a year, that the TCM prescription works as well as standard drugs in protecting the kidneys – without the side effects.

Dr Linn Yeh Ching, a senior consultant haematologist at SGH, will also be doing two studies to find out the effectiveness of TCM for patients with blood disorders.

The first study, lasting a year, will give TCM herbs to 10 patients with a disorder that causes a low platelet count and for whom conventional treatment has failed.

The second one, also lasting a year, will give TCM herbs to 30 patients with blood disorders that cause anaemia. Many of them tend to be elderly people unable to undergo bone marrow transplants, so they can be given only supportive treatment, Dr Linn said.

Associate Professor Ng Han Seong, who chairs SGH’s medical board, said the hospital was looking to do TCM-related research in three areas – patients for whom conventional medicine has nothing left to offer, patients with chronic diseases, and cancer.

He said: ‘If we are able to find an alternative, we can give patients another option.’

huichieh@sph.com.sg

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