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Watch out for these supplements with potent substances: HSA

Two people experienced adverse effects after taking products containing potent medicinal ingredients including steroids, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said on Monday.

HSA alerted the public to refrain from purchasing AlphaMiracHerbs capsules, Shu Jin capsules, as well as Jolicare baby cream, collagen cream and original cream. Those who have consumed or used them are advised to see a doctor as soon as possible.

The AlphaMiracHerbs and Shu Jin capsules were obtained from Malaysia, while Jolicare creams were sold on local e-commerce and social media platforms.

HSA has worked with platform administrators to remove the listings. Investigations against the seller are ongoing.

A woman in her 60s who took Shu Jin capsules regularly over 10 years to alleviate joint pain had to be hospitalised shortly after she stopped taking it. 

Her relative who obtained the capsules from a clinic in Malaysia had recommended it to her.

She experienced fever, giddiness, joint pain and loss of appetite, HSA said. She was diagnosed with osteoporosis and adrenal insufficiency – a serious steroid withdrawal condition where the body does not produce enough steroid hormones after stopping long-term steroid use.

Upon testing the product, HSA detected three potent medicinal ingredients – dexamethasone, chlorpheniramine and atorvastatin.

Dexamethasone is a steroid, chlorpheniramine is an antihistamine and atorvastatin is a cholesterol-lowering medicine. 

Long-term unsupervised use of steroids such as dexamethasone can cause Cushing’s syndrome and increased blood glucose levels, which can lead to diabetes, HSA added.

This was the case for a man in his 60s who developed Cushing’s syndrome after taking AlphaMiracHerbs capsules for three to four months for an inflammatory skin condition. He gained about 10kg and developed a round face.

He received the product from a friend who got it in Malaysia.

HSA found that AlphaMiracHerbs capsules contained dexamethasone, chlorpheniramine, ibuprofen, lovastatin, chloramphenicol and tetracycline.

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and lovastatin is a cholesterol-lowering medicine. Chloramphenicol and tetracycline are both antibiotics.

HSA was alerted to the sale of Jolicare creams online based on feedback from several people, including a pharmacist who was suspicious of the cream when a three-year-old’s chronic eczema improved after only three days of use, and a doctor who saw it on social media chat groups. 

HSA said Jolicare product listings carried a disclaimer that the creams contained “a minimal amount of dexamethasone and clobetasol” and falsely claimed that “the dose is approved by skin specialists and is safe for all, including babies and pregnant mums”.

“Creams containing such potent steroids for treatment of skin conditions should be evaluated and approved by HSA, and they should only be prescribed by doctors for use under medical supervision,” said HSA, adding that these products were not approved by the authorities. 

Apart from clobetasol propionate and dexamethasone, HSA detected chloramphenicol and ketoconazole in all three Jolicare creams. 

Clobetasol propionate is a steroid and ketoconazole is an antifungal.

Potent medicinal ingredients in the creams can pose serious health risks, especially in infants, children and pregnant women, if used without medical supervision, HSA warned.

It advised consumers to be wary of products that carry exaggerated claims or deliver quick results, such as fast relief of chronic medical conditions, as they can contain potent ingredients that can seriously harm one’s health.

Consumers should also exercise caution when buying such products online or from well-meaning friends as they cannot be certain where and how these products were made and whether they have been adulterated with harmful ingredients.

“Adulterated products are often manufactured under poor conditions with no quality control, and different batches of the same product may contain variable amounts of ingredients and/or different types of adulterants,” HSA added.

Consumers should always consult their doctor or pharmacist if they need help managing their chronic medical conditions, it added.

Those convicted of selling or supplying products found to be adulterated with potent medicinal ingredients can be jailed for up to three years, fined up to $100,000, or both.

HEALTH SCIENCES AUTHORITYmedicinePHARMACEUTICALS SECTOR