Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has warned against the consumption of Wan Ling Ren Sem Chin Kuo Pill and Chong Cao Dan, two health products from Malaysia.

This came after two elderly Singaporean women had developed adverse reactions, after prolonged consumption of the two products that were promoted as traditional Chinese medicines (TCM). The products that allegedly contain herbal ingredients, claimed to help ease with conditions such as pain, numbness of the limbs and blood circulation.

However, upon testing, the health products were found to contain undeclared Western medicinal ingredients. Both products contain dexamethasone, a potent steroid that may lead to Cushing syndrome. In Chong Cao Dan itself, frusemide (a diuretic that helps the body to get rid of excess fluid) and chlorpheniramine (an anti-allergenic medicine) were discovered.

HSA has also cautioned against supplies and consumption of these health products. "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," remarked HSA.

Physical conditions of two elderly Singaporean women worsen

A woman in her 70s was recently hospitalised in the Intensive Care Unit due to severe breathing difficulties. She has been taking Wan Ling Ren Sem Chin Kuo Pill daily for four to five years to relieve her rheumatism and pain.

She also suffered from adrenal insufficiency, a serious condition where the body does not produce sufficient amounts of steroid hormones. This resulted in generalised weakness, muscle and joint pain, low blood pressure, fits or shock.

Another woman in her 60s, fainted twice this year due to consumption of Chong Cao Dan weekly for the past two to three years. She has consumed the products to relieve muscle aches and pains and improve her blood circulation.

She also developed the Cushing’s syndrome – which results in a round or “moon face” appearance, along with upper body obesity and thin limbs, and thinning of the skin. As a side effect, her high blood pressure worsened due to prolonged consumption of the potent steroids.

Her aches and pains were said to reoccur if she did not consume the product. She is currently under outpatient care to manage these conditions, indicated HSA.

HSA warns against buying and consuming these products

According to HSA, it is unlikely to find these products in Singapore by far; nonetheless, they can be bought online, or imported from overseas. HSA deemed the sales of these two health products as illegal. The supply of these two products “must be stopped immediately,” emphasised HSA.

Individuals convicted of selling the complementary health products may be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to SGD100,000 (RM310,777).

Consumers of these products are also advised to consult doctors as soon as possible, to look out for withdrawal symptoms (including fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure) due to “discontinuation of steroids without proper medical supervision”. MIMS

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