Recall of Po Chai Pills

     The Department of Health (DH) today (March 24) directed licensed manufacturer in proprietary Chinese medicines Li Chung Shing Tong (Holdings) Ltd. HK to recall Po Chai Pills Capsule Form and Po Chai Pills Bottle Form from local retail outlets and consumers as its capsule form was found in Singapore to contain phenolphthalein and sibutramine, which can cause very serious side effects.

     The finding came to light as a result of the department's pharmacovigilance activities when the DH came to know today that the Health Sciences Authority, the drug regulatory authority of Singapore, announced a recall of Po Chai Pills Capsule Form.

     In Hong Kong, Po Chai Pills Bottle Form is registered as proprietary Chinese medicine and sold locally while Po Chai Pills Capsule Form is applying for registration as a proprietary Chinese medicine.

     A department spokesman said the recall of Po Chai Pills Capsule Form and Po Chai Pills Bottle Form is a precautionary measure because of the very serious potential side effects of phenolphthalein and sibutramine, and that they are commonly used by a whole spectrum of our population, including vulnerable groups like children and the elderly.

     He said phenolphthalein was once used for treating constipation but had been banned in 2001 for its cancer causing effect.

     Sibutramine is a western medicine used as an appetite suppressant. Its side effects include increased blood pressure and heart rate, psychosis and possibly convulsion. People with heart problems should not take it.

     He said: "Products containing sibutramine are western pharmaceutical products and must be registered as such before it can be sold in Hong Kong. It can only be sold on a doctor's prescription and dispensed under the supervision of a pharmacist."

     The spokesman said sale of unregistered pharmaceutical products was an offence under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance. The maximum penalty is a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment.

     Members of the public should stop using Po Chai Pills Capsule Form and Po Chai Pills Bottle Form immediately. They should consult their healthcare providers if they feel unwell after taking the pills.

     They should destroy and dispose of the product or submit it to the department's Pharmaceutical Service at 3/F, Public Health Laboratory Centre, 382 Nam Cheong Street, Kowloon, during office hours.

     The drug manufacturer has set up a hotline (2564 3536) for public enquiries.

     Investigations by the department are continuing.

Ends/Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Issued at HKT 21:41