To provide evidence on the efficacy and safety of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) as interventions for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Seven electronic databases, including the Cochrane Library, Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Chinese Scientific Journal Database (VIP), Chinese Biomedical Literature Service System (SinoMed), Wanfang, Embase, and PubMed, were comprehensively searched, from their inception to August 16, 2020, for all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that focused on CHM used alone or in combination with conventional medicine for SLE. Outcomes were SLE activity index (SLEDAI), traditional Chinese medicine symptom/syndrome score (TCMSS), dosage of glucocorticoids, main serological testing, and incidence of adverse events. Data were extracted and pooled using Review Manager 5.3 software.
A total of 13 RCTs enrolling 856 participants met our inclusion criteria. Meta-analyses showed that, compared to placebo, CHM had statistically significant effect on reducing SLEDAI score (MD=−1.74, 95% CI: −2.29 to −1.18), diminishing TCMSS (SMD=−0.89, 95% CI: −1.16 to −0.62), decreasing dosage of glucocorticoids (MD=−2.41 mg/d, 95% CI: −3.34 to −1.48), lowering erythrocyte sedimentation rate (MD=−4.78 mm/h, 95% CI: −8.86 to −0.71), and increasing serum complement C4 level (MD=0.03 mg/dL, 95% CI: 0.00 to 0.06). No significant difference was found between CHM and placebo on adverse events.
CHM provided significant beneficial effect on controlling disease activity and reducing dose of glucocorticoids used among SLE patients. Future advanced designed RCTs for CHM treating moderate to severe SLE with multicenter and longer follow-up are urgently needed.
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