Do not buy, consume herb remedy that contains potent steroid, undeclared ingredients: HSA

SINGAPORE - The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on Tuesday (April 4) warned the public against buying or consuming a traditional herbal remedy that contains undeclared potent ingredients which cause steroid-induced side effects.

The advisory came after a woman who took it regularly was diagnosed with diabetes and Cushing's syndrome.

The product, named PHQ 1001 Khasiat Penawar Herba Qaseh Serata Herb, was marketed as a traditional herbal remedy for several medical conditions such as kidney diseases, impotence, pain and stroke, HSA said in a press release on Tuesday.

It was sold on social media platforms and online sites based overseas.

A woman in her 60s took the product regularly for a few months, hoping to cure her knee pain. While she experienced rapid pain relief, she also put on weight rapidly and developed a puffy face.

She was eventually diagnosed with diabetes and Cushing's syndrome, a condition caused by prolonged ingestion of steroids and characterised by a round face and obesity in the upper body, with thin limbs.

The conditions were likely to have been caused by a potent steroid, dexamethasone, found in the product, HSA said.

The woman's doctor said a few of her friends who also took the product experienced similar weight gain, likely caused by the steroids in the product.

The undeclared potent ingredients found in the illegal product are: dexamethasone, a potent steroid which, with long-term use, can cause Cushing's syndrome, high blood pressure, diabetes and an increased risk of infections; piroxicam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which can cause gastrointestinal adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting and gastric bleeding; anti-fungal drug griseofulvin, which can cause headaches and serious effects such as liver injuries and Stevens-Johnson syndrome; and paracetamol, an over-the-counter drug for relief of fever and pain.

HSA in its release warned those who sell the product to stop immediately. It is illegal to sell and supply complementary health products containing undeclared potent Western medicines. Those convicted of the offence can be jailed for up to three years and or fined up to $100,000.

Those with information on the sale or supply of the product can contact HSA's enforcement branch on 6866-3485 or e-mail

HSA also issued the following advice for the public:

- Consult a doctor as soon as possible if you have been taking the product;

- If you have been taking the product for more than a few weeks, stopping suddenly without proper medical supervision can cause serious withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure, so do consult a doctor;

- Exercise caution when buying health products online or from unfamiliar sources, even when they are recommended by friends or relatives;

- Be wary of complementary health products such as supplements and traditional medicines that promise quick results for chronic medical conditions, as they may contain prescription medicines that should be taken only with medical supervision;

Members of the public can visit to learn more about the dangers of buying illegal health products from questionable sources.

This article was first published on April 4, 2017.
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