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Import and sale of specific Chinese herbs prohibited


The Department of Health (DH) today (April 24) announced that starting from June 1 this year, importation and sale of Chinese herbs and related products containing Aristolochic Acid (AA) will be prohibited.

A DH spokesman said a recent survey on the side effects related to herbs containing AA revealed that there are unclear factors in local Chinese herbal market that lead to inappropriate or misuse of AA herbs. Examples included the erroneous substitution of the herb Aristolochia mollissima Hance for Herba Solani Lyrati and Radix Aristolochiae Fangchi for Radix Stephanilae Tetrandrae.

According to medical documents, prolonged and excessive use of herbs containing AA is associated with kidney failure and cancer of the urinary tract. Even though many herbs contained AA, the numbers of herbs which are commonly used for medical purpose are limited.

The spokesman said the control measure was introduced by the Chinese Medicines Board (CMB) in view of the fact that there is no effective mechanism to examine and identify the AA-containing herbs in local market to safeguard public health.

"Starting from June 1, the importation and sale of herbs listed in List A will be prohibited and herbs listed in List B will be suspended for further examination," the spokesman said. (List A and List B will be uploaded to the Chinese Medicine Council website later today).

The CMB also decided to prohibit the sale of proprietary Chinese medicines containing AA. Application for registration of this kind of products will not be approved. The relevant measure will also be part of the licensing conditions when Chinese herbs retailers and wholesalers apply for a license issued by Chinese Medicines Board.

DH will closely monitor local and overseas clinical researches on Chinese medicines containing AA. The department will also work with local universities on this aspect.

Reassessment of the current control measures on AA will be made once an effective mechanism to ensure the proper use of Chinese medicines is in place in the Chinese medicine sector. The Chinese Medicine Council will consider allowing registered Chinese medicine practitioners to use some of the herbs containing AA but with medical value.

The spokesman called on Chinese medicine practitioners not to prescribe medicines with AA to their patients. Any suspected Chinese medicine poisoning cases should be notified to DH as fast as possible to facilitate follow up investigation by DH.

Members of the public should consult their Chinese medicine practitioners and follow their advice before taking Chinese medicine.

Further information on the control of herbs with AA could be obtained by calling Tel 2961 8968 between 9 am and 5 pm from Monday to Friday, and from 9 am to 1 pm.

Ends/Saturday, April 24, 2004


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