May 8th 2014
Consumers are being warned not to use a number of herbal medicines that can be bought on the internet, after they were found to contain undeclared prescription-only medicines and heavy metals.
In one case, according to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) who have issued the warning, a medicine used to treat asthma symptoms was found to contain a medicine whose associated side effects include irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, stomach ulcers and blood and nervous system disorders. The remedy in question is ‘Shwasa Sanjeevani’ – which was found to contain dexamethasone without it being declared on the label.
The issue was revealed after a female patient visited her GP with concerns of weight gain and mild excess facial and body hair growth. The GP suspected Cushing's syndrome or polycystic ovary syndrome and requested a blood test. The patient was not on any prescription medication apart than salbutamol for mild asthma, but admitted to taking the Indian herbal remedy.
There is also a separate warning on three herbal slimming pills that contain undeclared prescription-only medicines. The pills ‘Lightning 10.0+ Reduces Weight’, ‘STB Summit of the Thin Body S Woman Degreasing Burning Pill’ and’ LV Shou Reduces Fat’ have been found by regulators in Hong Kong to contain prescription only drugs such as Sibutramine and Sildenafil. Sibutramine was previously used to treat obesity but has since been withdrawn in Europe over concerns of increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Sildenafil is a prescription drug used to treat erectile dysfunction and should only be taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Sildenafil was also found by authorities in Singapore to be an ingredient in ‘Li Long Mei Guo Mo Bang’, a drug promoted for sexual enhancement.
Samples of ‘Hairegenerator’ – promoted for the treatment of hair loss -were found by the Hong Kong Department of Health to exceed the permissible limit for mercury. And ‘Ginseng Tu chong Wan Lin Heong’, used to treat arthritis, was found to contain the prescription only drug Dexamethasone which should only be taken under the supervision of healthcare professional.
The MHRA's Herbal Policy Manager, Andrea Farmer, said: “These are products are potentially dangerous and while none of these products are authorised for sale in the UK, they can be bought on the internet. If you buy medicines from the Internet you run the risk being supplied with medicines that are not safe or suitable to use. Natural does not mean safe. To help you chose an herbal medicine that is suitable for you look for a product that has a Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) or a product license on the packaging. These products have met the acceptable quality and safety standards." Ms Farmer continued: “And if you think you have suffered a side-effect to an herbal medicine, please tell us about it through our Yellow Card Scheme at www.yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk.”