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Chinese medicine warning

01 March 2010

People in Jersey who may have taken a potentially harmful herbal medicine from a locally-based Chinese medicine shop are being asked to see their GPs for a check up, to establish whether their health has been affected by a substance which is banned under the medicines law.

It has been found that a herbal substance on sale at the Dr Beijing shop in Queen Street, St Helier, contains a substance called aristolochia, a toxic and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) plant derivative that is banned in both Jersey and the UK by the medicines law, under the (Aristolochia, Mu Tong and Fangji) (Prohibition) (Jersey) Order 2002.

The substance can affect kidney function and in some rare cases, has been known to cause kidney failure. The name of the product reads as Jing Zhi Ke Sou Tan Chuan Wan. It is used in Chinese medicine to treat coughs.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Rosemary Geller said, "I am very concerned that this issue has arisen in Jersey, but am confident that action has been taken urgently to look into the matter and to take the necessary steps to protect the public.  Dr Susan Turnbull is leading on the investigation in consultation with the UK authorities."

Speaking about the issue, Deputy Medical Officer of Health Dr Turnbull said, "We have a duty to ensure that illegal substances like this, banned because of their known harm to health, are not on sale in Jersey, and to alert anyone taking it to stop doing so immediately. If you have taken this product then my advice is to see your GP for a check up and in particular a test of kidney function.

"If anyone still has supplies then I would ask them to take it to the police station, or the Public Health Department (Le Bas Centre) as it is needed as part of a wider criminal investigation at national level involving the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency."

On Saturday 27 February 2010, Dr Turnball and the States Of Jersey Police visited the shop, and, with the co-operation of the owner, ensured that all medicines containing aristolochia were removed from the stock. It was also been possible to identify from records a small number of patients who had been dispensed the banned product and these people are being contacted individually.  

"There may be more people who have taken this product than the records suggest," said Dr Turnbull. "People may also have shared the medication with others believing as the product is herbal, it must therefore be safe. This is simply not the case."

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