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Prescription-only drugs found in 'potentially dangerous' Asian herbal remedies

Prescription-only drugs and heavy metals found in herbal remedies despite not being listed on the labels, warns MHRA

The MHRA has warned people against using "potentially dangerous" Asian herbal remedies after they were found to contain undeclared prescription-only medicines and heavy metals.

Dexamethasone, sibutramine and sildenafil had all been found in herbal remedies despite not being listed on the medicines' labels, the MHRA said on Wednesday (May 7).

The medicines watchdog had been alerted to traces of dexamethasone in Indian herbal asthma remedy Shwasa Sanjeevani when a female patient reported concerns about her weight gain and "mild excess facial and body hair growth" to her GP after taking the treatment.

Authorities in Singapore also found dexamethasone in arthritis treatment Ginseng Tu chong Wan Lin Heong, the MHRA said. Side effects of dexamethasone include irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, stomach ulcers and nervous disorders, it said.

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The MHRA said medicines regulators in Hong Kong had found banned obesity drug sibutramine and erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil in Chinese slimming pills.

The Hong Kong Department of Health had also found excessive amounts of mercury in a hair-loss treatment, while sildenafil had been detected by the Singaporean authorities in a sexual enhancement treatment, the MHRA added.

MHRA herbal policy manager Andrea Farmer warned patients that, although none of the products were available for sale in the UK, they could be bought online.

"Natural does not mean safe. To help you choose a suitable herbal medicine, look for a product that has a Traditional Herbal Registration," she added.

Click here to read the MHRA's statement

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