HSA issues warning on 2 health products after one woman admitted to ICU, another suffered facial burns

The products deemed illegal are: URE Tonic Herbal Traditional (left), which was sold by a practitioner in Malaysia; and unlabelled bottles of facial solution sold at Dhoby Xchange in Dhoby Ghaut. PHOTOS: HEALTH SCIENCES AUTHORITY

SINGAPORE - The national regulator for health products has warned sellers not to peddle two health products and cautioned consumers against buying them. These products were found to have undeclared ingredients that caused two women to suffer adverse reactions after they had used them.

One consumer developed a condition caused by prolonged use of steroids and had complications such as pneumonia that required intensive care treatment. The other suffered chemical facial burns and had to see a skin specialist, said the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in a statement on Monday (Jan 22).

These two products - deemed illegal here - are: URE Tonic Herbal Traditional, which was sold by a traditional practitioner in Malaysia; and unlabelled brown bottles of facial solution from a beauty parlour at Dhoby Xchange shopping mall at Dhoby Ghaut.

Tests by the HSA found undeclared Western medicinal ingredients in the products: dexamethasone in the tonic product, and hydroquinone and tretinoin in the solution.

A female consumer in her 50s had taken the tonic daily for more than a year, but ended up experiencing persistent low-blood pressure and a weakened immune system that led to pneunomia and sepsis, a life-threatening condition that involves tissue and organ injuries.

She had bought the product from a traditional practitioner in Malaysia. She developed Cushing's syndrome, which is characterised by a round or "moon face" and upper body obesity with thin limbs. It is caused by prolonged consumption of steroids.

She is currently undergoing outpatient care after being admitted to the intensive care unit for treatment.

HSA tests found that the tonic had contained dexamethasone, a potent steroid that is usually prescribed for inflammatory conditions and should only be used under strict medical supervision.

The second female consumer, in her 20s, had visited the Anita iBrow beauty parlour for a make-up session that included the use of a facial solution, RDL Hydroquinone Tretinoin Babyface Solution 3, which the beautician had bought online.

The beautician had poured the solution into two unlabelled brown glass bottles and sold them to the consumer to brighten her skin.

After the customer had used the solution for two to three days, she experienced superficial chemical burns and skin peeling, with her skin darkening, turning red and itchy. She had to see for a skin specialist for treatment.

The solution had contained hydroquinone and tretinoin, which are used for treatment of skin conditions and should only be prescribed by a doctor and used under medical supervision, said HSA.

"Be cautious when purchasing health products from unfamiliar sources, even if they are recommended by friends and relatives," said HSA.

It added that one should avoid buying or using unlabelled health products and by wary of those that promise quick and miraculous results.

The authority also warned sellers to stop selling these two products immediately. It said they are illegal products which contain prohibited ingredients.

Anyone who supplies illegal health products is liable to prosecution and may be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $100,000 if found guilty.

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