Public urged not to buy or use product with doubtful composition (with photo)

     The Department of Health (DH) today (April 22) urged the public not to buy or use a product, namely Snake Powder Capsules, as it was found to contain undeclared controlled drug ingredients.

     The appeal resulted from the DH's investigation upon the receipt of notification of a case from the Hospital Authority (HA) yesterday (April 21) regarding a 58-year-old male patient who had consumed the above product.

     The patient attended the Accident and Emergency Department of Queen Elizabeth Hospital on April 7 for chest discomfort and bilateral ankle swelling and was admitted for treatment on the same day. He gave a history of consuming Snake Powder Capsules, which was purchased locally. Preliminary test results from the HA's laboratory revealed that the product may contain undeclared Part I poisons and antibiotics. The DH conducted investigation immediately.

     A Chinese medicine centre in Mong Kok was subsequently raided in a joint operation by the DH and the Police. During the operation, a woman aged 50 and a man aged 29 were arrested for suspected illegal sale and possession of Part I poisons, an unregistered pharmaceutical product and antibiotics. Snake Powder Capsules were found and seized for analysis. The Government Laboratory today confirmed that the product contains dexamethasone, ibuprofen, chlorpheniramine, tetracycline and chloramphenicol.

     The DH's investigation is continuing.

     Dexamethasone and ibuprofen are Part I poisons whereas tetracycline and chloramphenicol are antibiotics. Products containing dexamethasone, tetracycline and chloramphenicol are prescription medicines which should only be used under the advice of a medical doctor or supplied by pharmacies under the supervision of a registered pharmacist upon a doctor's prescription.

     Dexamethasone is a steroid, and its side effects include moon face, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, muscle atrophy, adrenal insufficiency and even osteoporosis. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for the relief of pain and inflammation, and its side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, peptic ulcers and renal impairment. Chorpheniramine is an antihistamine for the treatment of allergic reaction, and its side effects include blurred vision and drowsiness.

     Tetracycline and chloramphenicol are antibiotics for the treatment of various infections. Tetracycline may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and dysphagia while chlorampheniol is associated with serous haematological side effects when given orally.

     According to the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap 138), all pharmaceutical products must be registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Hong Kong before they can be sold legally in the market. Illegal sale or possession of unregistered pharmaceutical products and Part I poisons are criminal offences. The maximum penalty for each offence is a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment. In addition, the Antibiotics Ordinance (Cap 137) also prohibits illegal sale and possession of antibiotics. Offenders are liable to a maximum penalty of a $30,000 fine and one year's imprisonment for each offence.

     A DH spokesperson strongly urged members of the public not to buy or use products of doubtful composition or from unknown sources. All registered pharmaceutical products should carry a Hong Kong registration number on the package in the format of "HK-XXXXX". Safety, quality and efficacy of unregistered pharmaceutical products are not guaranteed.

     Members of the public who have purchased and consumed the above product should consult health-care professionals for advice immediately. They may submit the products to the DH's Drug Office at Room 1856, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, during office hours for disposal.

Ends/Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:46