Public Health Alert for a Chinese Drug Named “Herbal Health Jointcare” Issued In Singapore

SINGAPORE: The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in Singapore has issued a public alert for “Herbal Health Jointcare” — a product which is found to contain five undeclared potent western medicinal ingredients, including a steroid.

The product claimed to contain natural herbal ingredients and to be steroid-free.

HSA said the product is marketed for the relief of joint pain associated with conditions such as rheumatism and arthritis, and sold by Ace Nutrition International over the Internet and at their premises at Kallang Pudding Road.

It is also labelled as a product of Japan, although investigations to date reveal that the source of the product cannot be ascertained.

HSA had since seized the product from the company and stopped all sales of the product.

HSA was alerted to the product when it received two reports of rapid pain relief associated with its use.

The first report was made by a woman in her 60s, who experienced pain relief within two days after taking “Herbal Health Jointcare” for frozen shoulder and joint pains.

She informed her doctor and related similar experiences by her friends who consumed the same product.

She is currently under review by her doctor for potential liver injury which could be related to the consumption of the product.

The second report was made by a consumer who became suspicious of the product when it brought rapid pain relief to his mother after taking it for one week.

HSA said those who are taking “Herbal Health Jointcare” are advised to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Due to the presence of the undeclared potent steroid in the product, consumers should seek medical advice before stopping the product on their own accord.

An HSA spokesperson adds that sudden discontinuation of “Herbal Health Jointcare” could result in serious steroid withdrawal symptoms, such as confusion and low blood pressure.

The steroid, betamethasone-17-valerate, detected in the product is used for swelling and inflammatory conditions and should only be used under strict medical supervision.

Long term unsupervised use of oral steroids can cause increased blood glucose levels leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, cataracts, muscular and bone disorders, increased risk of infections and Cushing’s syndrome which is characterised by a round face or ‘moon face’, and upper body obesity with thin limbs.

HSA said four other western medicinal ingredients — piroxicam, furosemide, chlorpheniramine and famotidine –detected in the product should also only be used under medical supervision.

Inappropriate long term use of piroxicam, a potent painkiller, may affect the kidneys, liver and can cause heart problems in susceptible patients such as the elderly.

Members of the public are advised on the following:

(i) To consult a doctor as soon as possible before they stop taking the product, if they have already consumed it. Sudden discontinuation of steroids without proper medical supervision may cause serious withdrawal symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure, especially when these products have been taken for more than a few weeks.

(ii) Be wary of complementary health products (for example, health supplements) providing unexpected rapid relief of their pain symptoms associated with their chronic conditions such as gout, arthritis and rheumatism. Complementary health products comprising natural ingredients are generally less potent than western medicines. Their effects are often not immediate and may only be seen after prolonged consumption.

(iii) Be wary of complementary health products carrying exaggerated claims or personal testimonials of miraculous cures of chronic ailments such as rheumatism and arthritis. “Herbal Health Jointcare” claimed on its website that a 103-year-old grandmother was relieved of knee pains and able to get up from wheelchair and walk within two weeks of taking the product.

(iv) To seek proper medical treatment and not self-medicate if they have chronic pain ailments.

HSA warns that it will take strong enforcement actions against those engaged in the sale and supply of illegal health products.

Anyone found selling complementary health products containing western medicinal ingredients can be fined up to S$10,000 and jailed up to two years under the Poisons Act in Singapore.

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