HSA warns public of illegal drugs

July 18, 2012

SINGAPORE – The Health Sciences Authority has alerted members of the public to illegal and adulterated capsules that are being sold as herbal or traditional medicines. Recently, three people ended up in trouble, while one landing himself in the intensive care unit (ICU), after taking illegal capsules they got from friends and street peddlers, thinking they were meant for pain relief.

Unknown to them, the capsules were adulterated with dexamethasone, a very potent anti-inflammatory steroid which should only be taken under strict supervision from doctors. The adverse side effects include increased blood glucose leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, eye, muscular and bone disorders, and can cause serious symptoms upon withdrawal.

The patient who was in critical condition was a man in his 80s who bought the capsules from a peddler. He was diagnosed by a doctor to have developed serious complications of Cushing’s syndrome after consuming the adulterated capsules for about one year for the relief of chronic back pain. He was warded in the ICU for complications resulting from chronic unsupervised steroid consumption.

Associate Professor Chan Cheng Leng, Deputy Group Director of the Health Products Regulation Group, HSA says, “We are very concerned that there may be more cases of consumers who are taking these products that are unreported and who may not be aware of its serious consequences. Traditional or herbal medicines that claim to offer quick relief of chronic conditions such as back and joint pain, especially if they are poorly labelled or packaged often contain potent medicinal ingredients such as steroids. Consumption of steroids, such as dexamethasone, without medical supervision, can lead to very serious adverse effects.”

HSA takes a serious view against those engaged in the sale and supply of illegal health products and will take strong enforcement action against such persons. It is an offence for an unlicensed person to import, sell or possess for sale any product containing substances controlled under the Poisons Act, such as dexamethasone. Anyone found guilty of an offence under the Poisons Act is liable to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to two years.




Category: Features, Health alert

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