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Suspension of use of Chinese herb mislabelled as "Flos Campsis" (with photos)

     The Department of Health (DH) today (February 3) appealed to members of the public who have bought the Chinese herb "Flos Campsis" from a licensed retailer, Cheong Kee Medicine Co in Yen Chow Street, Sham Shui Po, to stop using the product immediately as mislabelling might have occurred, such that what was dispensed could be another herb, Flos Daturae Metelis. The precautionary alert is considered indicated as the latter is a known poisonous herb.     

     The suspicion arose as DH investigated into a suspected Chinese herbal poisoning incident notified by Queen Elizabeth Hospital earlier on today. A 27-year-old Chinese male developed symptoms compatible with anti-cholinergic poisoning, including palpitations and dilated pupils, after taking herbal medicines including "Flos Campsis" purchased from the above retailer. The patient's condition became stabilised after hospital treatment.

     "Although confirmation of the clinical diagnosis requires laboratory results which are still pending, with the epidemiological information in hand, mislabelling of Flos Daturae Metelis as Flos Campsis seems most likely," a DH spokesman remarked.      

     "Therefore, DH immediately conducts field inspection at Cheong Kee this afternoon. As suspected, what the retailer refers to as "Flos Campsis" in the shop does look like Flos Daturae Metelis. It is claimed that the batch was purchased from a local wholesaler about three years ago and Cheong Kee reports that it has not sold the herb to patrons other than the index patient," the spokesman revealed. DH inspectors seized all remaining stock of "Flos Campsis" for Government Laboratory's analysis.      

     "Upstream investigation continues for finding out both the exact location and the reason of mixing up," the spokesman added. It is noted that DH has received no other similar report.  

     "Flos Campsis and Flos Daturae Metelis are two different Chinese herbal medicines," the spokesman emphasised. "Flos Campsis is non-toxic and is indicated for the removal of 'blood-heat', 'blood-stasis' and 'wind'.

     "On the other hand, Flos Daturae Metelis is a potent toxic herb, containing tropane alkaloids which can cause anti-cholinergic poisoning, and hence is classified in Schedule 1 of the Chinese Medicine Ordinance. This is why prescription of this herb requires authorisation by a registered Chinese medicine practitioner. It is commonly used to relieve cough, alleviate pain and stop spasm," the spokesman elaborated.     

     Despite the two herbs being very different in terms of plant origin and indications, mixing up does occur as can be read from the literature as well as local herbal poisoning investigation discoveries.     

     "Contravention of section 54 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, Cap 132, Laws of Hong Kong - selling a drug intended for use by man but unfit for that purpose - might have occurred. The maximum penalty involved is $50,000 and six months' imprisonment. On completion of the investigation, we will work with the Department of Justice regarding possible prosecution," the spokesman said.

     He urged members of the public who have purchased "Flos Campsis" from the involved retailer must stop using it and surrender the herb to DH at 16/F, Two Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon. They should seek advice from healthcare professionals if they feel unwell or whenever in doubt.

Ends/Friday, February 3, 2012
Issued at HKT 20:08


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