PHU THO, Vietnam - Doctors have warned of a remarkable increase in the number of people suffering from allergic reactions due to taking medicine without a doctor's prescription or proper consultation.
Associate Professor Nguyen Van Doan, head of Bach Mai Hospital's Allergy-Immunity Centre, said that allergies have been common among people taking functional foods and tonics as well as patients receiving treatment for gout in recent years.
"While most patients think that functional foods are safe, being extracted from herbs, the number of people poisoned is increasing," he said.
Patient Tran Mai Anh (not her real name) is one of them.
Though the thirty two year old was told that there was no known cure for lupus, and that she would have to live with it for the rest of her life, Anh ignored her doctor's instructions, taking functional food every day with the belief that it could cure her.
Her actions resulted in a blazing red rash across a large part of her body only two days later. Like many other patients at the Allergy-Immunity Centre, Anh was diagnosed as being severely allergic to functional food.
Statistics released by Bach Mai Hospital showed that the number of patients found to experience allergic reactions to medicine had increased by five times in the past 15 years.
On a list of medicine responsible for allergic reactions, antibiotics ranked the highest, accounting for 75 per cent of all cases.
Allergies have mainly occurred among patients using antibiotics, painkillers, anti-infection and antitypyretic drugs during the past few years, Doan said.
He cautioned people against allergic reactions, saying that any category of medicine could potentially produce a reaction, the shock of which could be fatal.
Participants at a recent conference on drug information and adverse drug reactions held in HCM City were told that between 25 and 30 per cent of patients suffer from acute poisoning, with around 12 per of the total number succumbing to death.
A recent HCM City Dermatology and Venereology Hospital report found that over 72 per cent of patients are hospitalised due to allergic reactions to varying types of medicine of which most people had little or no previous information.
Doctor Tran Thi Thanh Thuy told of an old woman with Lyell Syndrome displaying symptoms of necrotic skin and damaged internal organs after taking medicine used in the treatment of gout.
The woman was sent to the HCM City Dermatology and Venereology Hospital only after most of her skin was ulcerated and peeling. While the patient was saved from certain demise, the process proved to be extremely strenuous.
Doctor Socorro Escalante, the World Health Organisation in Viet Nam, told Lao Dong newspaper that allergic reactions to medicine had spread across many countries.
He cited the tragedy of a sleeping-pill-tranquilliser called Thalidomide that pregnant women worldwide had taken with great negative effect to around 12,000 children during 1962.
The majority of affected children were born with birth defects as a result of their mothers taking Thalidomide for monitoring sickness during pregnancy. Nearly 40 per cent of all affected children died early.
Skin experts warned that skin poisoning due to the misuse of medicine remained high.
In many cases, allergic reactions to medicine might cause unexpected effects such as innate malformations, disabilities and a threat to life.
To avoid allergic reactions, health experts have suggested people seek medical attention when affected by illnesses while only taking medicine with a prescription.
People should make a note of the drugs that cause allergic reactions in order to avoid re-using them in future.
Every year, thousands of new medicines flood the market. With doctors unaware of a large number of new products, people have developed the habit of purchasing medicine based on mass media advertisements.
Deputy Director of Viet Nam's National Drug Information-Adverse Drug Reaction Centre Nguyen Hoang Anh said that it was imperative for the health sector to keep a close watch on whether medicine are used properly and effectively.
The Central Drug Testing Institute revealed that low quality medicine made up between 2.67 and 3.33 per cent of tested samples each year.