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Recall of mislabelled Chinese herbal medicine

     The Department of Health (DH) today (May 10) ordered a licensed retailer of Chinese herbal medicines, Hang Seng Dispensary, located at G/F, 270 Castle Peak Road, Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon, to recall from consumers a Chinese herbal medicine, processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis (Bai Fu Pian), as it is wrongly labelled as "Typhonii Rhizoma" (Bai Fu Zi) by the retailer.

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

     On May 6, a 79-year-old man consulted a registered Chinese medicine practitioner (CMP), Mr Wu Siu-kei, who worked in Hang Seng, for coughing and was dispensed Chinese herbal medicine by Hang Seng. Two hours after consuming the Chinese herbal medicine, he developed peri-oral and limb numbness, dizziness and hypotension, which were compatible with adverse effects of aconitum alkaloids. The patient was then admitted to a public hospital for treatment and was discharged on the next day. Laboratory testing revealed that aconitum alkaloids were found in the urine sample of the patient which can be explained by the consumption of processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis.

     The DH's preliminary investigation revealed that Mr Wu prescribed processed Typhonii Rhizoma to the patient. However, Hang Seng erroneously dispensed processed Radix Aconiti Lateralis, which was mislabelled as Typhonii Rhizoma in the container. Hang Seng admitted that the staff concerned could not tell the difference between the two.

     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 Hang Seng and no other related adverse incidents have been reported so far.

    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 Typhonii Rhizoma 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.

     Members of the public can call Hang Seng's hotline at 2387 2349 for enquiries about the recall. The DH will closely monitor the recall. The DH's investigation is proceeding.

     The DH urged the public to stop using the above mislabelled herb immediately. Those who have used the mislabelled herb and feel unwell should seek advice from their health-care professionals as soon as possible. People who have purchased the mislabelled herb 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 for disposal.

Ends/Friday, May 10, 2013
Issued at HKT 20:59


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