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Press Release

Public urged not to consume an oral product containing undeclared Western drug ingredients

17 April 2013

The Department of Health (DH) today (April 17) appealed to members of the public not to buy or consume an oral product labelled as "Duozhong Shancao Zhongyao" as it may contain multiple undeclared Western drug ingredients that might be dangerous to health.

The appeal followed the DH's receipt of notification from the Hospital Authority (HA) of a 56-year-old female patient and the DH commenced investigation immediately.

"The patient, with osteoarthritis of knees and multiple chronic illnesses, described a history of consumption of the above oral product for joint pain during a follow-up consultation with her doctor. As her knee pain significantly improved upon consumption, the doctor hence suspected that this product might contain Western drug ingredients," a spokesman for the DH said,

The HA's laboratory test on the product sample today showed the presence of multiple undeclared Western medicines, including dexamethasone, prednisolone and amitriptyline. The preliminary investigation revealed that the product is not a registered proprietary Chinese medicine of the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong. The patient obtained the product from a friend but the exact source where her friend purchased is yet to be ascertained. The DH's investigation is continuing.

Dexamethasone and prednisolone are steroids and prescription-only medicines. Taking steroids for a long time, especially in substantial dosages, can cause side-effects such as moon face, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, muscle atrophy, peptic ulcer, adrenal insufficiency and even osteoporosis. Amitriptyline is an antidepressant and must be sold upon doctors' prescription at pharmacies under the supervision of pharmacists.

"Members of the public feeling unwell or in doubt after consuming the product should consult healthcare professionals as soon as possible. In addition, they should not buy or consume products of unknown composition or from doubtful sources. People with arthritis and joint pain should consult healthcare professionals for appropriate treatment," the spokesman urged.

An oral product labelled as "Duozhong Shancao Zhongyao" is not a registered proprietary Chinese medicine of the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong.

17 Apr 2013