DH investigates case of proprietary Chinese medicines contaminated with alkaloids (with photo)

     The Department of Health (DH) today (July 22) appealed to members of the public not to consume four proprietary Chinese medicines (pCms) (see photo, no English names) prescribed by a registered Chinese medicine practitioner (CMP), Chao Lan practising in Huichun Chinese Medicine Clinic, Ngau Tau Kok, Kowloon, as the above pCms were found to contain alkaloids, which should not be present therein.

     The DH was notified by the Hospital Authority (HA) last night (July 21) of a case affecting a woman aged 57 presented with abdominal pain, sweating, generalised weakness as well as perioral and limb numbness after consuming the above pCms prescribed by the CMP. She attended United Christian Hospital on July 15 and was discharged on July 16 after treatment.

     The HA's laboratory testing on the above pCms detected alkaloids, including strychnos alkaloids and sophora alkaloids. The ingredients labelled on the pCms could not account for the presence of the alkaloids detected. No evidence at this stage however indicated that the patient's symptoms were related to the above pCms.

     "Initial investigations revealed that the CMP obtained the above pCms by entrusting a local licensed pCm manufacturer with the production and direct purchasing from another local licensed pCm wholesaler. Samples of the related pCms have been collected for laboratory testing," a spokesman for the DH said.

     "Strychnos alkaloids, usually found in Chinese herbal medicines such as Semen Strychni, may cause muscle spasm and convulsion. Sophora alkaloids, usually found in Chinese herbal medicines like Radix Sophorae Flavescentis, may cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting," the spokesman explained.

     While the DH's investigations are ongoing, no other patients feeling unwell after consuming the above pCms have been reported so far. The DH has directed the CMP to follow up the affected patients and monitor their health status.

     "According to section 52 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132), selling any drug not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser is liable to a maximum penalty of a fine of $10,000 and three months' imprisonment. Upon completion of the investigation, we will work with the Department of Justice on prosecution matters and will also refer this case to the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong to consider taking possible disciplinary action," the spokesman said.

     Members of the public should stop consuming the above pCms immediately. Those who have taken them and are feeling unwell should seek advice from healthcare professionals. People who have the above pCms can submit them to the DH's Chinese Medicine Division on 16th Floor, AIA Kowloon Tower, Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, during office hours for disposal.

Ends/Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Issued at HKT 20:42