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Warning on orally consumed product containing banned and undeclared Western drug ingredients (with photo)

     The Department of Health (DH) today (December 23) appealed to members of the public not to consume an oral product as it has been found to contain at least four undeclared Western drugs, one of which is a banned item in Hong Kong.    

     The announcement follows the DH's investigation into a Hospital Authority (HA) notification about a patient who had history of consuming the above product, which is meant specifically for people with high blood sugar.  The patient is a 67-year-old Chinese man with diabetes mellitus who requires anti-diabetic medications to control his condition.  He was admitted to Tseung Kwan O Hospital because of dizziness and chest discomfort on December 13.

     "The patient claims that he has been using the product for his diabetes for about two years.  He bought the product from a drug store in Kunming, Yunnan Province.  The HA's preliminary laboratory test on a sample of the product found multiple Western medicines, amongst which is a banned drug, phenformin,"  a DH spokesman said.

     "According to available information, the product is not registered in Hong Kong as a Chinese or Western drug.  Investigation is still ongoing, especially regarding whether the patient's clinical condition on admission could be explained by the tainting.  Meanwhile, the patient was discharged uneventfully on December 21."

     The spokesman added that, "Besides phenformin, the product also contains three other Western drugs, two of which, glimepiride and rosiglitazone, are used for the management of diabetes.  Known side effects from glimepiride include nausea and gastro-intestinal upset; and from rosiglitazone, headache, dizziness and lower limb oedema.  Furthermore, rosiglitazone should not be used by those with a history of heart failure.  Phenformin, because of the possiblly fatal effect of lactic acidosis, has already been banned in Hong Kong since 1985.  The other Western drug detected is hydrochlorothiazide, which is used for the management of hypertension.  Its side effects include hypotension, electrolyte imbalance and gastro-intestinal upset.  Aside from phenformin, the other three Western drugs are prescription items, meaning that they should be used under medical supervision.

     "Patients with chronic medical illness like diabetes require holistic long term management and ought to consult healthcare professionals for appropriate advice.  They are strongly urged not to self-medicate or use over-the-counter medication without professional supervision.  The consequences can be serious.  In addition, as the festive season is approaching, opportunity is also taken to remind the public not to use products of unknown or doubtful compositions whilst travelling outside Hong Kong.  Instead, they should consult healthcare professionals whenever they feel unwell or are in doubt after having taken suspicious products," the spokesman said.

     "People who have taken the above product should consult their healthcare providers as soon as possible because the product may cause life-threatening hypoglycemia and lactic acidosis.  Additionally, any of the tainted product which is still in public possession ought to be submitted to the Chinese Medicine Division of DH at 16/F, Two Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong during office hours for disposal," said the spokesman.

Ends/Friday, December 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 18:36


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