Woman develops ‘moon face’ after taking Gu Jie Ling medicine, Latest Health News - The New Paper

Woman develops ‘moon face’ after taking Gu Jie Ling medicine

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has warned against the buying, selling or consuming of “pain-relief remedy” Gu Jie Ling after one user in her 60s developed a serious steroid-induced condition from the pills.

The product is marketed as a traditional remedy for the relief of backache, joint and muscular pain, made from all-natural herbal ingredients. But HSA’s analysis of its contents found the steroid dexamethasone in the pills, the authority said on Feb 1.

Tests also revealed the presence of an antihistamine, cetirizine.

HSA got wind of the product after a woman in her 60s who had been taking Gu Jie Ling pills for months was diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome while she was in hospital for other reasons.

She had displayed telltale Cushingoid symptoms: low blood pressure and the round, puffy face – or “moon face” – characteristic of the condition.

Further investigations revealed her blood cortisol levels were low and that she had gained weight a month before hospitalisation, added HSA.

The woman had been taking the product for foot pain, on the recommendation of a friend who had bought the steroid-laced remedy from a “traditional medicine shop” in Johor Bahru. The packaging claimed the remedy had “no side effects”.

Though Gu Jie Ling carries a Malaysian product registration number, the number is “not valid”, according to the Malaysian health authority’s website, suggesting that it may be an illegal product, said HSA.

HSA has alerted its Malaysian counterpart to the product.

Dexamethasone – the potent, “moon face”-causing steroid – is usually prescribed for inflammatory conditions and should be used only under strict medical supervision. Long-term unsupervised use can raise blood sugar levels, cause high blood pressure, cataracts, muscular and bone disorders, and an increased risk of infections, as well as Cushing’s syndrome. 

HSA advised people taking Gu Jie Ling to see a doctor as soon as possible. However, they should not abruptly stop taking it as doing so may aggravate underlying medical conditions or cause serious withdrawal conditions like fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure.

All sellers and suppliers must stop selling the product immediately, said HSA.

Gu Jie Ling is also sold by a number of sellers on Shopee, who claim that the pills are imported from Hong Kong.

Suppliers who peddle products found to be tainted with dangerous ingredients may be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to two years, or both.

HSA advised consumers to be wary of products carrying exaggerated claims like “no side effects”.

It urged the public not to buy products from unverifiable sources and to exercise caution when buying treatments overseas or taking products from friends or relatives, as one cannot be certain of their origins.

Consumers should buy products only from reputable pharmacies or retailers and consult their doctor or pharmacist if they need help managing chronic medical conditions.

Anyone with information on the sale and supply of illegal products may contact HSA’s enforcement branch on 6866-3485 during office hours from Monday to Friday, or e-mail: hsa_is@hsa.gov.sg