SINGAPORE - An elderly man was hospitalised after taking a health product to relieve the pain in his knee.
The man, in his 70s, developed Cushing's syndrome, characterised by a "moon" face, thin limbs, thinning of the skin and easy bruising, after eating Pil Raja Urat Asli.
He had bought the product from street peddlers in Geylang and Chinatown. The product was later found to contain a potent steroid.
On Friday (Nov 30), the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) issued an alert on Pil Raja Urat Asli and two other health products, which also had undeclared potent Western medicinal ingredients.
The first product, XXS xtraxtrasmall, for weight loss, which was sold online, contained sibutramine, a prescription-only weight-loss medicine which has been banned in Singapore since 2010 due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The other product, Best Nutrition Products Diabotica 500mg Capsules, touted as a dietary supplement, was sold at local retail outlets.
It was found to contain mycophenolic acid, used to suppress immunity in auto-immune diseases and prevent rejection in organ transplantation.
The use of mycophenolic acid was known to have gastrointestinal side effects, such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea and infections.
The HSA said that tests on Pil Raja Urat Asli found it had dexamethasone, a steroid usually prescribed for inflammatory conditions.
The authority added that dexamethasone should be used only under strict medical supervision.
It said that long-term unsupervised use of oral steroids can cause increased blood glucose levels as well as high blood pressure, cataracts, muscular and bone disorders, an increased risk of infections, and Cushing's syndrome.
The HSA said that it has initiated the recall of the affected products from retail outlets, and has told the administrators of online platforms to remove the Web listings of these products.
The authority added that the products were detected through its post-market product quality surveillance and adverse event monitoring programme.
Consumers are advised to stop taking XXS xtraxtrasmall and Best Nutrition Products Diabotica 500mg Capsules immediately, and consult a doctor if they feel unwell.
Those who have taken Pil Raja Urat Asli should see a doctor as soon as possible, the HSA said.
"Discontinuation of steroids without proper medical supervision can cause serious withdrawal symptoms, such as fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure, especially when the product has been taken for more than a few weeks," it added.
The HSA also warned consumers against buying products that promise or deliver quick results and miraculous effects.
They should also avoid purchasing health products from street peddlers, and exercise caution when buying such products online.
Sellers and suppliers are advised to stop selling the three illegal products immediately.
Anyone convicted of supplying illegal health products could be jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to $100,000.
The public may contact the HSA's enforcement branch on 6866-3485 during office hours (Monday to Friday) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if they have any information on the sale and supply of these illegal products.