The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) issues a public alert to members of the public for them not to purchase or consume three health products bought in Malaysia that were tested to contain several undeclared western medicinal ingredients, including a potent steroid and several prescription-only medicines.
The three health products are listed below.
Earlier in 2005, HSA had warned consumers against purchasing or consuming ‘Snake Powder Capsule’ as it was found to be adulterated with undeclared ingredients.
According to HSA, four patients were hospitalised for serious conditions, including liver injury and metabolic disorder, after consuming them.
A father, in his 50s, and his daughter, in his 30s, were hospitalised for about a week after consuming ‘Snake Powder Capsules’ for three weeks. The father had liver injury, while his daughter developed drug-induced hepatitis or inflammation of the liver.
A patient, in her 60s, was also hospitalised for about a week after consuming ‘JC Gold’ for about four months. She developed Cushing’s syndrome, a metabolic disorder characterised by round face or ‘moon face’, upper body obesity with thin limbs, and high blood glucose. The presence of dexamethasone (a potent steroid) in the product is likely to have contributed to her medical condition.
Another male patient who is in his 70s was hospitalised for Cushing’s syndrome for over a week after taking ‘Tu Cho Pan Chi Pian’ for a few years to help with lower limb weakness. Similar to ‘JC Gold’, ‘Tu Cho Pan Chi Pian’ was found to contain dexamethasone, which could have caused Cushing’s syndrome in the patient.
‘Snake Powder Capsules’ was said to contain natural ingredients, including a protein found in various snake species’ venom, and was touted to treat a variety of illnesses, such as pneumonia, hepatitis, shingles, kidney disease, skin problems, joint pain and rheumatism. ‘JC Gold’ is marketed for joint pains and labelled to contain various natural herbs. ‘Tu Cho Pan Chi Pian’ is labelled to treat rheumatic joint pain, backache and numbness of the limbs. All three products were purchased overseas, either by the patients themselves or through their friends or relatives.
HSA noted that Dexamethasone is a potent steroid that is usually prescribed for inflammatory conditions, and should only be used under strict medical supervision. It was one of the undeclared ingredients found in all three products. Long-term unsupervised use of such an oral steroid can cause Cushing’s syndrome, increased blood glucose levels leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, cataracts, muscular and bone disorders, and an increased risk of infections.
Members of the public who have purchased or are consuming these products are advised to:
- Consult a doctor as soon as possible. Do not stop the use of any of the three products immediately as sudden discontinuation of steroids without proper medical supervision can cause serious withdrawal symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure, especially if they have been consumed for more than a few weeks.
- Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you need help for the management of your acute and chronic medical symptoms and conditions (e.g. joint pain or eczema). Be wary of any health products that produce unexpected quick recovery of medical conditions, especially when purchasing them from sources which you may not be familiar with, even if well-meaning friends or relatives have recommended them. You cannot be certain where and how these products were made. They may be illegal, counterfeit or substandard, and may contain undeclared ingredients which can harm your health.
Anyone convicted of selling illegal health products may be liable for prosecution under the Health Products Act, Poisons Act and/or Medicines Act. Offenders will face a penalty fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for a period of up to three years under the Health Products Act; a penalty fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for a period of up to two years under the Poisons Act and a penalty fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for a period of up to two years under the Medicines Act.