Background: With the introduction of evidence-based medicine in the area of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), systematic reviews (SR) and meta-analysis (MA) shown a good development momentum in terms of quantity, depth, breadth and influence, but some problems exist.
Objectives: We aimed to identify the current main problems of Chinese TCM SR/MA and find the solution by analyzing all related published literature systematically.
Methods: Systematic searching of CNKI, VIP, WanFangdatabase, CBM, PubMed, Web of Science (WOS), the Cochrane Library and the PROSPERO registry platform was carried out to include all published TCM-SR/MAs in both Chinese and English. After excluding irrelevant research, cited information was recorded according to data from the Chinese Science Citation Database (CSCD) and WOS, and methodological quality, authors’ information, outcomes, registration state and adverse reactions were collected and analyzed by our group with Excel.
Results: A total of 2460 TCM-SR/MAs have been published in the last 19 years. Although the number of Chinese SR/MAs was 4.03 times (1971:489) greater than that in English, the total number of citations was only 1.75 times (8465:4825) and even less than a half (4.29:10.10) in average. No Chinese SR was cited abroad. 148 researches were finished by single researcher and the most prolific author published 21 literatures alone. Adverse reactions to Chinese patent drugs were mentioned in only 5% (34/618). The effectiveness assessment of several varieties was published more frequently and the highest rank was 38 times.The average number of outcomes reported about the four most common diseases was 18, and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) and Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations (GRADE) were less adopted. However, other 43 registered TCM-SR/MAs did not show the problem above.
Conclusions: Limited access, low methodological quality and selective reporting of Chinese TCM-SR/MA need to be solved. A proper registration system is recommended for further standardization and regulation.