Background: Across the world, the economic and health costs of diabetes are rising at an alarming rate. Each year in the United States, billions of dollars are spent on T2 Diabetes mellitus (T2DM) treatments, but such treatments are not always effective and can lead to adverse events. Many pharmacological treatments exist to control the primary and secondary symptoms of T2DM, but these medications are not always efficacious, do little to treat secondary T2DM symptoms, and often carry adverse side effects. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a form of alternative medicine that is becoming appealing to western healthcare systems because of its comprehensive, holistic approach to managing T2DM patients.
Methods: Works across TCM printed texts, clinical trial databases, medical association practice guidelines, and the existing literature on TCM and western diabetes treatments (in print and online) are reviewed.
Results: Conventional pharmaceutical therapies for T2DM are not efficacious enough to maintain satisfactory blood glucose levels for all patients, and even patients who maintain stable blood glucose levels may still suffer from secondary T2DM symptoms as well as from the side effects of their medications. TCM therapies have demonstrated promising results in T2DM clinical studies without causing the types of side effects associated with standard pharmaceutical treatments. In addition, the economic burden of TCM diabetes treatments on patients and payers is oftentimes less than that of pharmaceutical regimens.
Conclusion: TCM approaches can be a viable alternative approach to treatment in the modern U.S. healthcare landscape, but a number of obstacles impede its assimilation into western health systems.