DH investigates additional case of undeclared Western drugs detected in cream prescribed by registered CMP (with photo)

     The Department of Health (DH) is today (July 19) investigating an additional case of undeclared Western drug ingredients detected in a cream prescribed by a registered Chinese medicine practitioner (CMP), and urged clients concerned to stay vigilant and seek medical advice as soon as possible if side-effects such as skin hypopigmentation or itching develop.

     Clients who consulted CMP Chow Chiu-hoi should take note of cream products he prescribed as they are suspected to contain undeclared Western drugs.

     The DH earlier received a complaint concerning a 1-year-old baby boy using a yellow cream without labelled ingredients prescribed by the above CMP for eczema. Upon testing by the Government Laboratory, Part 1 poison clobetasol propionate was detected in the cream specimen submitted by the patient's family.

     Following investigations commenced immediately, a man aged 78 was arrested by the Police for suspected sale and possession of Part I poisons, unregistered pharmaceutical products and antibiotics in Ngau Chi Wan in a joint operation of the DH and the Police yesterday (July 18).

     "Based on the current evidence, there is no linkage among this case, that in Shau Kei Wan reported on June 21 and that in North Point on June 27," a spokesman for the DH said.

     The DH has issued letters to all CMPs and Chinese medicine associations and held a briefing for representatives of CMP professional bodies to alert them to the recent cases and reiterate that CMPs must not prescribe Chinese medicines which contain Western medicines to their patients when practising Chinese medicine as it violates the Chinese Medicine Ordinance (Cap 549) and the Code of Practice for CMPs, endangering public safety and health.

     The DH has set up a hotline (2125 1133) operating from 9am to 5pm since June 21 to provide information and health advice to persons affected by cream products prescribed by CMPs concerned and collect epidemiological data to assess the impact on public health. As of 5pm today, 329 enquiries had been received and, among them, 131 persons reported suspected side-effects after use.

     "Patients who developed suspected side-effects after use should seek medical advice for prompt diagnosis and treatment, especially for chronic users regarding suspension of use of the cream. We will issue letters to doctors to alert them to the incident and to report suspected poisoning cases if encountered in their practice," the spokesman said.

     Members of the public who possess these creams or their remnants should submit them to the DH's Chinese Medicine Division at 16/F, AIA Kowloon Tower, Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, during office hours for possible follow-up.

     "Clobetasol propionate is a corticosteroid and prescription medicine to be used under medical advice. Inappropriate use of corticosteroids may cause serious side-effects such as Cushing's syndrome, with symptoms including moon face and muscle atrophy," the spokesman explained.

     According to the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap 138), illegal sale or possession of Part 1 poisons and unregistered pharmaceutical products 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. The DH will also refer this case to the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong for possible disciplinary action.

     "Eczema patients should take good care of their skin and often use appropriate skin care products to moisturise their skin. Do not take medication without medical advice, or purchase medication on your own or use other persons' medication. If redness, swelling or blistering develop after application, stop immediately and inform healthcare professionals," the spokesman advised.

     For children suffering from eczema, parents should keep a tidy, fresh, clean and cool household. They should not spend too long in the bath and the water temperature should be maintained as moderate. They should not choose fluffy toys, keep pets or grow flowering plants either.

Ends/Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Issued at HKT 18:35