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Immediate suspension of use of mislabelled Chinese herb "Flos Campsis" (with photos)

     The Department of Health (DH) today (March 12) alerted members of the public, especially those living in Tung Chung and its vicinity, to immediately stop taking a Chinese herb labelled as "Flos Campsis" if they had bought it from Fu Hong Medicine Co, a licensed retailer in Chinese herbal medicine in Fu Tung Shopping Centre, Tung Chung after this February 24. DH considered this advice as a necessary precaution because the Department suspected that the herb was mislabelled and what was actually dispensed was another toxic herb, Flos Daturae Metelis.

     The suspicion arose after DH began investigating into a suspected cluster of four Chinese herbal poisoning incidents notified by Princess Margaret Hospital earlier on today. Two male and two female patients, age ranged between four and 51 were involved. They all had symptoms compatible with anti-cholinergic poisoning, including dizziness, dilated pupils and confusion, after taking medicines containing "Flos Campsis" purchased from the above retailer between March 7 to 10. All except one patient have recovered after treatment and have been discharged accordingly. The remaining patient is in stable condition.

     Although final confirmation of the clinical diagnoses requires laboratory results which are pending, the epidemiology information in hand points to Fu Hong as the source of poisoning.

     Thus, DH immediately inspected Fu Hong this afternoon and found that what was referred by the retailer as "Flos Campsis" looked like Flos Daturae Metelis during on-site morphological examination. The batch was claimed to have been purchased from a local wholesaler on February 24. DH seized all remaining stock for chemical analysis.

     Meanwhile, investigations into the seven other patrons who had bought the same batch of so called "Flos Campsis" from Fu Hong on February 24 and the reason for mixing up are ongoing.

     "Flos Campsis and Flos Daturae Metelis are two different Chinese herbal medicines," the spokesman explained.

     "Flos Campsis is non-toxic, indicated for the removal of "blood-heat", "blood-stasis" and "wind"," the spokesman elaborated.

     "On the other hand, Flos Daturae Metelis is a potent toxic herb, containing tropane alkaloids which can cause anti-cholinergic poisoning, and hence classified in Schedule 1 of the Chinese Medicine Ordinance. Its use, commonly for the relief of cough, alleviation of pain and arrest of spasm, required prescription by a registered Chinese medicine practitioner" the spokesman emphasised.

     The two herbs are very different in terms of plant origin and indications, but mixing up does appear in literature reports every now and then.

     "Members of the public who have purchased "Flos Campsis" from the involved retailer after February 24 must stop using it and surrender the herb to DH at 16/F, Two Landmark East, Kwun Tong, Kowloon. They should seek advice from their attending Chinese medicine practitioners if they feel unwell or whenever in doubt," the spokesman reminded.

Ends/Saturday, March 12, 2011
Issued at HKT 22:21


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