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DH investigating suspected cases of Cushing's syndrome with history of receiving acupuncture from a registered CMP

     The Department of Health (DH) is investigating five cases of Cushing's syndrome and other adverse effects which have a common history of receiving acupuncture or other treatment provided by a registered Chinese medicine practitioner, Ma Siu Wing (the CMP), in his Chinese medicine clinic in Yau Ma Tei.

     A spokesman for the DH said today (August 23) that DH has recently received notifications of suspected iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome in three patients, comprising one male and two females, aged between 8 and 35, since late July this year.

     The DH commenced investigation immediately after receipt of the notifications. Two inspection visits had been made to the CMP's clinic (one in association with the Hong Kong Police Force) on July 31 and August 7. No steroid drugs were found in the premises during the inspections. The CMP had ceased consultation. Another joint inspection with the police to the clinic premises was conducted today.

     On August 21, DH received reports of iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome involving two more patients who claimed to have received acupuncture treatment from the CMP. The two patients were both males aged 11 and 34. The 34-year-old man was suspected to have features of Cushing's syndrome while the 11-year-old boy, and an 8-year-old girl in an earlier case reported in July, were both diagnosed as having growth failure related to adrenal insufficiency.

     Investigations were initiated to collect detailed medical histories, drug histories and relevant laboratory results from the patients and their clinicians.

     DH's initial investigation revealed that the five patients, all suffering from skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and alopecia, had past history of receiving acupuncture treatment from the CMP before the onset of the symptoms. They subsequently sought medical treatment from other health-care professionals and were diagnosed as having either Cushing's syndrome or other adverse effects such as adrenal insufficiency.

     Cushing's syndrome, if caused by prolonged use of high doses of exogenous steroid, is termed iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome. Persons affected can develop round face, increased growth of hair over the body, obesity of the trunk, skin changes, increased blood pressure and abnormal blood glucose level.

     Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency may include chronic fatigue, nausea and vomiting, weight loss etc. Slow growth may also present in affected children. Adrenal insufficiency can be brought on by some medications, for example, steroids for prolonged periods of use.

     Investigation on the five patients' history of exposure to steroid revealed that there was no apparent source of exogenous steroid received by them during the course of acupuncture treatment by the practitioner. Investigations are being conducted to assess whether the acupuncture or other treatment provided by the CMP might possibly be the cause of the problem. The patient in one of the cases reported that he had received regular injection (apart from acupuncture treatment) from the CMP.

     While active investigation is underway, the DH has sought confirmation from the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine that acupuncture treatment per se would not lead to Cushing's syndrome or adrenal insufficiency.

     DH has set up a hotline 2125 1133 for public enquiries operating from tonight till 10pm and then from 9am to 6pm on Monday to Friday. Members of the public are advised to consult health-care professionals if they feel unwell or suffer from adverse effect after receiving acupuncture treatment provided by the CMP.   

     "We will continue to keep close watch of the development and will take further actions when necessary upon legal advice. Meanwhile, we have referred the five cases to the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong for consideration of taking necessary disciplinary action," the spokesman added.

Ends/Thursday, August 23, 2012
Issued at HKT 20:00


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