HSA issues warning on 'herbal' black pills after man is hospitalised

The black pills contain potent Western medical ingredients, namely dexamethsone (a steroid) and chlorpheniramine (an antihistamine), both of which should be used only under medical supervision.
The black pills contain potent Western medical ingredients, namely dexamethsone (a steroid) and chlorpheniramine (an antihistamine), both of which should be used only under medical supervision. PHOTO: HEALTH SCIENCES AUTHORITY

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has warned the public to steer clear of black pills from an alternative therapy centre in Changi, after a man was recently hospitalised after taking them.

"Prolonged use of these black pills, which are labelled to be of herbal origin, can lead to serious adverse reactions," it said in a statement yesterday.

The black pills from the Pusat Rawatan Darul Ilaaj (Darul Ilaaj Treatment Centre) have no proper name and are meant to relieve body aches and enhance general well-being.

But a diabetic patient in his 50s was hospitalised after taking them.

He was warded for uncontrolled hypertension and Cushing's syndrome, a metabolic disorder. His condition improved only after he was referred to a specialist and stopped taking the black pills.

The pills contain potent Western medical ingredients, namely dexamethsone (a steroid) and chlorpheniramine (an antihistamine), both of which should be used only under medical supervision.

Dexamethsone is usually prescribed for inflammatory conditions. Long-term unsupervised use can lead to Cushing's syndrome, as well as increased blood glucose levels that cause diabetes, high blood pressure, cataracts and muscular and bone disorders.

Chlorpheniramine, which is used for allergic reactions, can cause drowsiness, blurred vision, vomiting and constipation.

The HSA advised people who are consuming the black pills from Pusat Rawatan Darul Ilaaj to consult a doctor as soon as possible. But they should not stop taking them immediately as the sudden discontinuation of steroids can cause serious withdrawal symptoms.

Those caught selling or distributing the black pills may face a fine of up to $10,000 and jail for up to two years under the Poisons Act.

People who have information on the sale and supply of the black pills or other illegal products can call HSA's Enforcement Branch on 6866-3485 during office hours on weekdays.

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'HSA issues warning on 'herbal' black pills after man is hospitalised'. Print Edition | Subscribe