SINGAPORE - The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has warned the public to avoid buying and consuming two health products from Malaysia that caused two elderly women to develop adverse reactions.
In a press release on Thursday (Nov 2), HSA said the two products - Wan Ling Ren Sem Chin Kuo Pill and Chong Cao Dan - were tested to contain undeclared Western medicinal ingredients.
Both were promoted as traditional Chinese medicine claiming to contain herbal ingredients to help with conditions such as pain, numbness of the limbs and blood circulation.
However, tests conducted by HSA found that both products contained dexamethasone, a potent steroid, while Chong Cao Dan also had frusemide (a diuretic which helps to remove excess fluid from the body) and chlorpheniramine (an anti-allergy medicine).
A woman in her 70s who had been taking Wan Ling Ren Sem Chin Kuo Pill daily for four to five years to relieve her rheumatism and pain was hospitalised in the Intensive Care Unit due to severe breathing difficulties.
She suffered from adrenal insufficiency, a serious condition where the body does not produce adequate amounts of steroid hormones. This results in generalised weakness, muscle and joint pain, low blood pressure, fits or shock.
Another woman in her 60s, who took Chong Cao Dan weekly for the past two to three years for blood circulation and to relieve muscle aches and pains experienced two episodes of fainting this year.
She aches and pains would return if she did not take the product and she developed Cushing's syndrome, with symptoms such as the characteristic round "moon" face and thinning of the skin.
Her high blood pressure also worsened due to prolonged consumption of steroids, and she is currently under outpatient care to manage these conditions.
Said HSA: "The undeclared potent Western medicinal ingredients in the products can pose serious health risks to consumers, especially when taken over a prolonged period without medical supervision."
It also provided the following advisory to consumers:
- As the products contain a potent steroid, consumers who have taken these products should see a doctor as soon as possible. Discontinuation of steroids without proper medical supervision can cause serious withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure;
- Be wary of health products that promise or produce quick and miraculous results for chronic conditions. Such products may contain hidden prescription medicines which should only be taken under medical supervision, or potent or banned ingredients that may harm you;
- Be cautious when purchasing health products from unfamiliar sources, even if they are recommended by friends or relatives. No one can be certain what these products contain, and where and how they were made;
- Consult your doctor or pharmacist to manage your acute and chronic medical symptoms and conditions (such as joint pain, arthritis and rheumatism).
Those selling or supplying the products must stop immediately as it is illegal to sell complementary health products containing potent Western medicines or banned substances.
Anyone convicted of doing so could be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $100,000.
Members of the public who have any information on the sale and supply of the two products may contact HSA's Enforcement Branch on 6866-3485 during office hours on weekdays or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.