SINGAPORE: The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) is warning the public not to buy or consume two products promoted in Malaysia as traditional Chinese medicine, after two elderly women fell ill after taking them.
The two products - Wan Ling Ren Sem Chin Kuo Pill and Chong Cao Dan - contain undeclared Western medicinal ingredients, including a potent steroid called dexamethasone, HSA said in a press release on Thursday (Nov 2).
A woman in her 70s who had taken Wan Ling Ren Sem Chin Kuo Pill daily for four to five years for rheumatism and pain was hospitalised in the intensive care unit after experiencing severe breathing difficulty.
She suffered from adrenal insufficiency, a serious condition where the body does not produce enough steroid hormones, resulting in weakness, muscle and joint pain, low blood pressure and fits or shock.
Another woman in her 60s who had taken Chong Cao Dan weekly for the past two to three years for blood circulation and to relieve muscle aches and pain, fainted twice this year and developed Cushing's syndrome. Cushing's syndrome causes round or a "moon" face and thinning of the skin.
According to HSA, the woman's aches and pain returned if she did not take the product. Her high blood pressure also worsened due to prolonged consumption of steroids.
The woman is currently under outpatient care to manage her conditions, HSA added.
Both products were promoted as traditional Chinese medicine and claimed to contain herbal ingredients that could help tackle conditions such as pain, numbness of the limbs and blood circulation, said HSA.
However, in addition to the dexamethasone found in both products, Chong Cao Dan was also found to contain frusemide (a diuretic that helps to remove excess fluid from the body) and chlorpheniramine (an anti-allergy medicine), HSA said.
"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," the authority said.
HSA said that the two products have not been found in Singapore so far, but could potentially be bought over the Internet or imported from overseas.
It warned sellers that the supply of the two products "must be stopped immediately".
Anyone who supplies illegal health products is liable to prosecution. If convicted, they may be jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to S$100,000.
HSA also cautioned that consumers who have taken the products should see a doctor as soon as possible, as discontinuation of steroids without proper medical supervision can cause serious withdrawal symptoms.