Health Sciences Authority issues warning on two TCM products from Malaysia

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
PHOTO: Health Sciences Authority

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has warned Singaporeans not to purchase or consume two medicinal products from Malaysia, after two elderly women who consumed them developed serious medical issues.

‘WAN LING REN SEM CHIN KUO PILL’ and ‘CHONG CAO DAN’ were promoted as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), with herbal ingredients that claimed to help with conditions such as pain, numbness of the limbs and blood circulation.

In a statement on Thursday (2 November), HSA said that tests revealed both products contain dexamethasone, a potent steroid. In addition, ‘CHONG CAO DAN’ also contains frusemide, a diuretic which helps to remove excess fluid from the body, and chlorpheniramine, an anti-allergy medicine.

“The undeclared potent western medicinal ingredients in the products can pose serious health risks to consumers, especially when taken over a prolonged period without medical supervision,” said an HSA spokesman.

While these products have not been found locally so far, it might be possible to purchase them over the Internet or import them from overseas sources.

HSA revealed two cases of individuals who purchased the products in Malaysia and suffered serious side effects after consuming them.

In the first case, a woman in her 70s had been consuming ‘WAN LING REN SEM CHIN KUO PILL’ daily for four to five years to relieve her rheumatism and pain. She suffered from adrenal insufficiency – a serious condition where the body does not produce enough steroid hormones, resulting in symptoms such as generalised weakness, muscle and joint pain and low blood pressure. She was admitted to the intensive care unit after she experienced severe difficulty in breathing.

Another woman in her 60s had been taking ‘CHONG CAO DAN’ weekly for the past two to three years to improve blood circulation, and to relieve muscle aches and pain. She developed Cushing’s syndrome, with symptoms such as round or ‘moon’ face and thinning of the skin. Her high blood pressure worsened due to long-term steroid consumption. She is currently under outpatient care to manage these conditions.

HSA advised consumers who have taken these products to see a doctor as soon as possible. Sellers and suppliers were also warned that the supply of ‘WAN LING REN SEM CHIN KUO PILL’ and ‘CHONG CAO DAN’ must be stopped immediately.

It is illegal to sell and supply complementary health products such as traditional medicines and health supplements containing potent western medicines or banned substances. Anyone who supplies illegal health products may be jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to $100,000.