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Recall of Chinese herbal medicines contaminated by solanaceous alkaloid

     The Department of Health (DH) today (August 28) instructed a licensed Chinese herbal medicine wholesaler, Hang Wo Drug Company (Hang Wo), located at Room 1001, Western Centre, 40-50 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, to recall from consumers its five marketed herbal medicines, namely Radix Clematidis, Jujubae Fructus, Rhizoma Polygonati, Hippocampus and Radix Codonopsis, as they were found to be contaminated by a solanaceous alkaloid.

     "The recall followed the DH's investigation of a case of solanaceous alkaloid poisoning on August 22. Some herbal samples were obtained from a licensed Chinese herbal medicine retailer, Sun Chung Nam Medicine Company, located at Shop No. 2, Shun Fung Building, 5-7 Fung Yau Street North, Yuen Long, New Territories, for chemical analysis. Samples of the above five herbal medicines were found to contain scopolamine, a solanaceous alkaloid, upon testing by the Government Laboratory, while testing results of other herbal samples obtained were negative," a spokesman for the DH said.

     According to Chinese medicine literature, the herbs concerned do not account for the presence of the solanaceous alkaloid detected.

     While the investigation is ongoing, upstream tracking thus far has revealed that the above five herbal medicines were supplied by Hang Wo. As a precautionary measure, Hang Wo was instructed to recall all batches of the above five herbal medicines from consumers. A hotline (2547 0584) has been set up by Hang Wo for related enquiries.

     "The DH is closely monitoring the recall. No other adverse reports in relation to the affected herbs have been received so far," the spokesman remarked.

     "Scopolamine is a solanaceous alkaloid, which cause anticholinergic symptoms like blurred vision, dry mouth, dizziness and confusion. Deaths may result in severe cases," the spokesman explained.

     According to section 54 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132), selling any drug intended for human use but unfit for that purpose is liable to a maximum penalty of $50,000 and six months' imprisonment. Upon completion of its investigation, the DH will work with the Department of Justice for prosecution matters and will also refer this case to the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong for consideration of possible disciplinary action.

     Health-care professionals who have the affected herbs in hand should submit them to the DH's Chinese Medicine Division at 16/F, AIA Kowloon Tower, Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon during office hours for disposal, or return them to the supplier. Moreover, members of the public who have been given or have purchased the affected herbs should stop using them immediately and consult health-care providers if feeling unwell.

Ends/Thursday, August 28, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:22


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