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Update on investigation into heavy metal poisoning with medications prescribed outside Hong Kong

     The Department of Health (DH) today (August 28) reported an update of investigations into cases of heavy metal poisoning after consumption of medications prescribed outside Hong Kong for treatment of chronic skin conditions, and again reminded members of the public to seek formal care from qualified healthcare professionals.

     "As of 7pm today, follow-up investigations so far identified 19 additional patients. Eight of them sought medical consultations. One of them required hospitalisation and has been discharged after treatment. All of them are now in stable condition. The Hospital Authority will follow up the patients for clinical assessment," a spokesman for the DH said.
     The new patients involve 13 males and six females aged 23 to 51. They have consulted a man who claimed to be a Chinese medicine practitioner in Changping, Dongguan, Guangdong, for treatment of chronic skin conditions from July 2014 to August 2015 under the arrangement of an agent in Hong Kong. They developed pain, weakness, numbness and tingling sensation in limbs, weight loss and increase in skin pigmentation after consumption of pills.  

     "Investigations including the patients' clinical conditions, consumption history are continuing," the spokesman added.

     Letters have been issued to doctors to alert them to the recent cases. As there may be other patients with skin problems who have consulted healthcare practitioners outside Hong Kong including the same man who claimed to be a Chinese medicine practitioner in Changping, Dongguan, Guangdong, and have been given medications which may cause poisoning, the DH appealed to medical practitioners to look out for travel and medication histories similar to the above in case of patients with compatible symptoms, and to report suspected cases.

     The DH has set up a hotline (2125 1133) for related enquiries. Patients who are in doubt or have similar cases should call the hotline for follow-up. It will operate from 9am to 6pm tomorrow (August 29) and next week from Monday (August 31) to Friday (September 4).

     Ingestion of toxic amounts of inorganic arsenic can cause different clinical manifestations including numbness and tingling of the extremities, muscle cramping or even death. Chronic exposure to mercury can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms of mercury poisoning may include tremors, irritability, insomnia, deterioration of memory, difficulty in concentration, impaired hearing and vision, and change in the ability to taste. In severe cases, renal failure can occur.
     "The public should consult qualified healthcare professionals. When seeking consultation outside Hong Kong, pay special attention to ensure that they are qualified or registered with relevant jurisdictions for practising. In case of medications obtained from suspicious or similar sources as reported above, stop further use of them and promptly seek advice from qualified healthcare professionals if experiencing discomfort after consumption," the spokesman advised.

Ends/Friday, August 28, 2015
Issued at HKT 22:28


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