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Recall of mislabelled Chinese herbal medicine (with photo)

     The Department of Health (DH) today (November 1) ordered a licensed wholesaler in Chinese herbal medicines, Wong Chak Kee Limited, in Sheung Wan to recall a Chinese herbal medicine, processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis (Bai Fu Pian), as it is wrongly labelled as "Giant Typhonium Rhizome" on the packaging, which corresponds to another Chinese herbal medicine, Rhizoma Typhonii in processed form. Wong Chak Kee is the importer of this mislabelled herbal medicine from Mainland China.

     The appeal follows the DH's investigation into an adverse event related to the consumption of processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis reported by the Hospital Authority (HA).

     On October 20, a 62-year-old man consulted a registered Chinese medicine practitioner (CMP), Mr Leung Ling Chit, who worked in a licensed retailer of Chinese herbal medicines, Ka Wah Medicine Co, in Ma On Shan, Sha Tin, for upper respiratory infection.

     Two hours after consuming the Chinese herbal medicine he developed numbness over the limbs, face and tongue, and dizziness, which is compatible with the adverse effects of aconitum alkaloid.

     "The patient was then admitted to a public hospital for treatment and he is currently in stable condition. Laboratory testing revealed that aconitum alkaloids were found in the urine sample of the patient which is highly likely caused by the use of processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis," a DH spokesman said.

     Preliminary investigation also revealed that both the CMP and Ka Wah misinterpreted and mislabelled processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis as processed Rhizoma Typhonii. Moreover, an unused sample of Chinese herbal medicine from the patient was also found to contain processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis.

     "While investigation continues, as of today, the processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis was supplied by at least two licensed wholesalers of Chinese herbal medicines, Hang Wo Drug Company and Cai Chong Trading Company in Sheung Wan, which were supplied by Wong Chak Kee.

     "Nonetheless, the processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis prescribed and dispensed was within the recommended dosage in the Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China 2010. In addition, no gross contamination of other Chinese medicines has been identified in Ka Wah and no other related adverse incidents have been reported so far," the spokesman added.

     Processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis is a Schedule 2 Chinese herbal medicine used for pain relief. It contains toxic aconitum alkaloids. If used improperly, aconitum alkaloids can cause discomfort like numbness of the mouth and limbs, nausea, vomiting and peripheral weakness, and can even lead to life-threatening breathing difficulties and cardiac arrhythmia.

     On the other hand, processed Rhizoma Typhonii is a Schedule 2 Chinese herbal medicine used for relieving phlegm congestion and pain. The possible side effects include skin and mucous membrane irritation and central nervous system suppression. It may also be lethal if used improperly, the spokesman said.  

     "According to Sections 7 and 24 of the Chinese Medicines Regulation (Cap 549F), a holder of a retailer and wholesaler licence shall ensure that the container of a Chinese herbal medicine has the name of the medicine.

     "Contravention is liable to a maximum penalty of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment. Upon completion of the investigation, the DH will work with the Department of Justice on any prosecution matters. The DH will also consider referring the case to the Chinese Medicine Council for possible disciplinary actions," the spokesman remarked.

     "To avoid mislabelling, the DH advises all CMPs and Chinese medicine traders to follow the names in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Chinese Medicine Ordinance for prescription and labelling of Chinese medicine as well as to comply with the relevant Code of Practice and Practicing Guidelines.

     "Members of the public can call Wong Chak Kee's hotline at 2546 8754 for enquiries about the recall. The DH will closely monitor the recall," the spokesman said.

     The spokesman urged the public to stop using the above mislabelled herbs immediately. Those who have purchased them should submit the product to the Chinese Medicine Division of the DH at 16/F, AIA Kowloon Tower, Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, during office hours.

     Those who have used the mislabelled herbs and feel unwell should seek advice from their health-care professionals as soon as possible.

Ends/Thursday, November 1, 2012
Issued at HKT 20:26


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