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Follow-up investigation on proprietary Chinese medicines contaminated with alkaloids (with photo)

     The Department of Health (DH) today (August 7) appealed to members of the public not to consume a proprietary Chinese medicine (pCm), namely [Yang Cheng Brand] Shi Re Qing (registration number: HKP-00470; batch number: 13006), as well as pCms manufactured by a licensed pCm manufacturer, Kowloon Kin Lam Medicine Limited (Kin Lam), as the above pCms were found to be contaminated with alkaloids.

     Further to cases of pCms contaminated with alkaloids reported on July 22 and 29, the DH's follow-up investigation revealed that Shi Re Qing, together with the contaminated pCm reported earlier, [Yang Family] Chuan Xin Lian Pian (registration number: HKP-00409), was also manufactured by the same manufacturer in the Mainland and imported by the same registration holder, Yuen Fong Co, for local sale. Upon testing by the Government Laboratory (GL), samples of the above batch of Shi Re Qing also contained sophora alkaloids, which should not be present therein. As a precautionary measure, Yuen Fong Co has voluntarily recalled all batches of Shi Re Qing from consumers.

     According to the package insert, Shi Re Qing is used for sore throat, headache, fever and cough. Yuen Fong Co has set up a hotline (2811 4590) for related enquiries. The DH will closely monitor the recall.

     "Investigations also reveal that, according to the GL, powder samples for the manufacturing of pCms by Kin Lam contain strychnos alkaloids and sophora alkaloids, which should not be present therein. Hence, the pCms might have been contaminated during the manufacturing process. The business of Kin Lam involves the manufacture of pCms entrusted by Chinese medicine practitioners (CMPs). Regarding this incident of contamination, Kin Lam has voluntarily suspended the production of pCms and would contact the CMPs entrusting the company to manufacture pCms for product recall arrangements. Kin Lam has set up a hotline on 2777 6627 for enquiries," a spokesman for the DH said.

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

     While the DH's investigations are ongoing, no patients feeling unwell after consuming the above pCms have been reported so far.

     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, the DH 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.

     Members of the public who have purchased the pCms should stop taking them 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 16/F, AIA Kowloon Tower, Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, during office hours for disposal.

Ends/Friday, August 7, 2015
Issued at HKT 20:33


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