UAE Ministry of Health Warning on Herbal Medications

The UAE’s Ministry of Health has issued a warning about the risks of using fraudulent herbal remedies, citing further health problems as possible side-effects. A report by the ministry’s drugs control laboratory found some herbal products contain harmful chemical substances, and many do not carry validity dates. Products can become particularly dangerous when they are mixed with unknown substances, packaged in uncertified materials and/or left in uncontrolled, humid conditions and temperatures that can lead to decay, officials said. An example was a herbal product used for the treatment of knee and back pain, which was found to be unsafe when tested.

"The drugs control laboratory in the ministry checked a sample of turmeric powder, which is used by some individuals for the treatment of knee and back pain, brought from Asian countries and traded spontaneously,” said Dr Amin Hussein Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for medical practices and licensing at the ministry. “The laboratory discovered that the fraudulent product contains piroxicam and paracetamol as well as other unknown substances that are harmful to human health.”

Al Amiri added that anti-inflammatory and non-steroid substances such as piroxicam may lead to myocardial infarction; a heart attack and strokes in addition to high blood pressure. Patients who suffer from these conditions should therefore be extra careful when using these products, he said. “Patients who suffer from asthma or who are allergic to aspirin should not use this kind of medicine. “Such medicines must not be traded or distributed without unauthorised medical prescriptions.” Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi’s health authority [HAAD] warned consumers of the dangers of using herbal slimming pills, after receiving complaints from users about approximately 60 different brands. The pills were said to contain ingredients of “unknown or doubtful composition”, and were risking the health of users. Two ingredients, sibutramine and alvenulfthalin, were thought to be particularly harmful, authorities said. Both were previously taken off the market, with sibutramine removed due to its high blood-pressure side effects and alvenulfthalin for its carcinogenic qualities.

"Many consumers have a wrong perception that any product marketed as herbal is safe,” said Dr Ali Obaid Al Ali, director of health regulation at HAAD. “But in many cases we have gathered and tested these products and found [them] to contain undefined chemicals or unknown drug concentration leading to a risk to the health of the user.”

Further Reporting from:

Mar 06, 2012

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