Traditional medicine in Hong Kong is sending users to hospitals
Despite warnings, they still take health supplements with adulterants
Oct 11, 2017
There’s a lot of medical advances now, but some people still turn to and swear by traditional medical supplements. This is especially true in Hong Kong, where there’s still a proliferation of traditional Chinese medicine.
However, there seems to be a trend in hospitals, or at least at Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong. Dr. Tony Wing Lai Mak is a pathologist at the said hospital and every few weeks, he receives blood and urine samples. These samples are from patients hospitalized after taking a traditional health supplement.
And the suspect of all the cases? Hidden adulterants in the drugs.
This sparked Mak and his colleagues’ to write their recently published study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology where they compiled a decade’s worth of observation regarding this incident.
In spite of regular warnings about the medicines from the Hong Kong Department of Health, people still take them.
“These are illegal products that are damaging to people’s health and can even kill. Yet somehow, they’re still here,” says Mak. This is because they are available in underhanded local shops or on the internet.
The doctor and his colleagues had compiled 404 cases of people, with ages ranging from one month to 90 years old, which were treated at the hospital after taking the supplements. This is from 2005 to 2015. His team had also detected 1,234 hidden ingredients.
The most common among these adulterants is sibutramine, an appetite suppressant linked to cardiovascular problems. It was actually pulled out of the market because of this risk.
The perception that Chinese medicinal remedies are “natural and safe” as Mak said, awarded these supplements popularity.
Although not all natural remedies are bad, it’s best to be dubious of them first, especially when you can’t read the labels or when the ingredients are unfamiliar.
Header image courtesy of Unsplash.com