Toxic poisoning alert for online Chinese medicines

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned people not to buy or use potentially dangerous unlicensed Chinese medicines sold online.

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The warning has been issued after some products were found to contain excessive levels of mercury or lead, and reinforces Get Safe Online's advice about buying drugs from unlicensed sources on the internet.

Hong Kong health authorities told the regulator that various products are being recalled and they should not be used by people in the UK because of an increased toxic poisoning risk. The products concerned are:

– Bak Foong Pills – sold to relieve menstrual discomfort
– Fung Shing Paij Tian-Ma Wan – sold to relieve arthritis and headaches
–  Hu Ye Guang Wan and Nai Chang Ming Yan Pills – both sold to improve vision in adults

The batches of Bak Foong pills were contaminated with mercury while the other three medicines contained lead. The toxic effects of lead include abdominal pain, anaemia, changes in blood pressure, reproductive disorders such as miscarriage, weakness, concentration problems, weight loss, insomnia, dizziness, kidney and brain damage. The toxic effects of mercury include irritability, tremors, memory loss, insomnia, concentration problems, kidney and brain damage.

There is no evidence that these products are available on the UK market but they could have been purchased over the internet or by people travelling to Hong Kong. 

Richard Woodfield is Head of Herbal Policy at the MHRA. "We would advise any one who has taken these products to seek GP advice immediately," said Mr Woodfield. “This highlights the dangers of buying unlicensed herbal medicines and the risk to people’s health. These medicines contain toxic impurities and the side effects can be serious."

He continued "The Traditional Herbal Registration scheme has been implemented to ensure patients can buy over-the-counter herbal medicines that they know have met quality and safety standards. If people think they have suffered a side effect to a herbal medicine, they can report it to us via our Yellow Card Scheme”.

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