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Press Release

Warning on oral product containing undeclared Western drug ingredients

17 October 2012

The Department of Health (DH) today (October 17) appealed to members of the public not to buy or consume an oral product called "Jia Rong Zhuang Gu Tong Bi Jiaonang", as it may contain multiple undeclared Western drugs that are dangerous to health.

The appeal followed the DH's receipt of notification from the Hospital Authority (HA) about a 46-year-old male patient. The DH commenced investigation immediately.

"The patient was admitted to North District Hospital on September 10 because of heart attack and acute-on-chronic renal failure. He was subsequently transferred to Prince of Wales Hospital for further management. He was later diagnosed to have concomitant adrenal insufficiency. He described a history of use of the above oral product for joint pain for over ten years. A drug-related adverse effect was suspected clinically. He was currently in stable condition.

"Today, the HA's laboratory test on the product sample showed the presence of multiple undeclared Western medicines, including prednisone, diclofenac, indomethacin, naproxen, ibuprofen, phenylbutazone, piroxicam, metoclopramide, hydrochlorothiazide, cimetidine, theophylline, trimethoprim and chlorpheniramine. Investigation showed that this product was purchased in Mainland. The DH’s investigation continues," a DH spokesman said.

"Prednisone is a steroid and a prescription-only medicine. Taking prednisone for a long time, especially in substantial dosage, can cause side effects such as moon face, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, muscle atrophy, peptic ulcer, adrenal insufficiency and even osteoporosis. Diclofenac, indomethacin, naproxen, ibuprofen, phenylbutazone and piroxicam are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to relieve pain and inflammation. Their known side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, peptic ulcer and renal impairment. It is well known that users will have increased risks of developing complications like gastrointestinal ulcers, some of which may be silent until more serious complications like gastrointestinal bleeding set in.

"Metoclopramide is used to relieve nausea and vomiting but it may occasionally affect muscular movement. Hydrochlorothiazide is used as a diuretic and also for the treatment of hypertension. It may cause hypotension and electrolyte imbalance. As for cimetidine, it is commonly used to suppress secretion of stomach acid. Theophylline is used to treat asthma. It can cause an irregular heart rate, gastro-intestinal discomfort and nausea. Trimethoprim is an antibiotic and should only be sold on a doctor's prescription and dispensed under a pharmacist's supervision.

Chlorpheniramine is an over-the-counter drug commonly used for relieving allergic symptoms. The most well-known hazardous side effect is drowsiness and, therefore, precautions should be taken while taking this medicine," the spokesman added.

"Members of the public if feel unwell or are in doubt after taking the product, they should consult healthcare professionals as soon as possible. Besides, they are advised not to buy or consume products of unknown composition or from doubtful sources. People with arthritis and joint pain should consult healthcare professionals for appropriate advice or treatment," the spokesman urged.

Jia Rong Zhuang Gu Tong Bi Jiaonang

17 October 2012