The Department of Health (DH) today (November 28) alerted clients of Mr Chan Kwok-wing of PCRC Chinese Medicine Clinic, a Chinese medicine practising group in Mong Kok, that if they have been supplied with a type of green tablet or a type of orange tablet, particularly for management of allergic conditions like eczema, they should stop taking them and consult health-care professionals for advice as soon as possible.
This is because the Government Laboratory has confirmed the detection of undeclared Western medicines, betamethasone and chlorpheniramine, at therapeutic ranges in the tablets.
The incident came to light as the DH investigated a complaint against Mr Chan from a member of the public. The complainant reported that her 7-year-old girl developed weight gain, a round face and excessive hair growth over her face, limbs and back - features compatible with steroid overdose - after taking the above tablets supplied by Mr Chan.
"It is said that the girl had been taking the drugs for some three months," a DH spokesman said.
"Chlorpheniramine was found in the green tablet, and both betamethasone and chlorpheniramine were found in the orange sample obtained from the patient. In fact, Mr Chan had given the girl two more types of tablets, a black one and a yellow one, but nothing else significant could be detected in them," the spokesman continued.
"Prolonged use of betamethasone, especially in high doses, is notorious for causing Cushing Syndrome, with patients having all of the symptoms found in the above girl, plus signs like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, muscle atrophy, peptic ulcer and even osteoporosis. This is also why the drug, a potent form of steroid, requires a doctor's prescription and can only be sold in a dispensary, under the supervision of a pharmacist," the spokesman said.
"As for chlorpheniramine, it is an over-the-counter Western drug commonly used for relieving allergic symptoms. The most well known hazardous side effect is drowsiness and, therefore, its use ought to be made known to clients in order for them to take the necessary precautions," the spokesman added.
"In the present case, given that there is no record to show that Mr Chan is either a registered medical practitioner or a pharmacist, and there is the suspicion that he may actually be practising Chinese medicine in a Chinese medicine practising group, DH staff are supporting the Police in the ongoing investigation of the clinic," the spokesman said.
"Information collected so far suggests that the two types of tablets have only been supplied to the index client. However, contact tracing and medical surveillance will be instituted as and when indicated," the spokesman stressed.
"Pending the final outcome of the investigation work of the Police and the DH, we will seek advice from the Department of Justice regarding possible illegal practice of Chinese medicine, and possession of unregistered drugs and Part 1 poison. The maximum penalties are $200,000 and imprisonment for seven years, and $100,000 and imprisonment for two years respectively," the spokesman said.
Ends/Monday, November 28, 2011
Issued at HKT 21:10