HSA to introduce voluntary consumer database for supplements, traditional medicine

The initiative aims to establish a database of safe and certified health products that consumers can refer to before buying. PHOTO: UNSPLASH

SINGAPORE - The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) will be introducing a voluntary notification initiative for companies that deal with health supplements and traditional medicines from Aug 1.

The initiative, which will be rolled out in phases, aims to establish a database of safe and certified health products that consumers can refer to before buying. HSA said this will allow for better traceability and follow-up actions by the agency if there are safety or quality issues.

The initiative will be the first publicly available database of its type by the agency, a HSA spokesman told The Straits Times.

Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said in a speech at the 31st Singapore Pharmacy Congress on Saturday (July 23): “We hope pharmacists will play an important role in supporting this initiative by advising patients and consumers to refer to this database when considering suitable health supplements and traditional medicines.”

HSA will start with commonly bought products, such as vitamin and mineral supplements, and products at higher risk of adulteration, such as those for weight loss, pain relief and male vitality enhancement.

The subsequent phases will gradually include other product categories.
HSA said it conducted industry consultations and received their support prior to launching the initiative.

This comes after recent cases in which people suffered adverse effects after buying health supplements and products.

For example, in June 2018, a woman in her 20s experienced rapid heartbeats, anxiety, dizziness and lethargy after consuming Nutriline Bluvelle - a slimming product that claimed to be “natural” and “safe”. 

She had purchased the product from an online shop based in Malaysia. The product was then tested by HSA to have contained a banned ingredient, sibutramine, which has been withdrawn from Singapore since October 2010 due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The authority prohibits the addition of medicinal ingredients such as steroids and sets strict limits on toxic heavy metals in health supplements and traditional medicines.

It is each individual company’s decision to submit a voluntary notification to be included in the database. Products on shelves at stores such as supermarkets, and Watsons and Guardian outlets, will remain available.

To be included, companies need to be locally registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority. They must also provide HSA with the relevant documents to demonstrate that their products meet the necessary safety and quality standards.

Only products that are compliant with the necessary regulatory standards will be included in the database.

Companies may start submitting their documents from Aug 1 and a fee is not required to submit a product notification.

Further information on the submission procedure and requirements is available on the authority’s website.

The HSA will also be holding training sessions to assist companies and will share more details with the industry at a later date.

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