Adulterated Proprietary Chinese Medicines Pose Serious Health Hazards

“Pills” by Victor is licensed under CC BY Interview with:
Tony Wing Lai Mak , MBChB, MBA, FRCPath, FRCPA, FHKCPath, FHKAM(Path 

Hospital Authority Toxicology Reference Laboratory
Princess Margaret Hospital, Hong Kong What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Proprietary Chinese medicines (pCMs) and health products are generally believed to be natural and safe. However, the safety of pCMs and health products has been compromised by the illicit practice of adulteration with undeclared drugs. Such adulteration can have serious and even fatal consequences. Previous reports of pCM and health product adulteration were mainly routine surveillance data or case reports/series with a small number of affected patients.

The present study in Hong Kong, to our knowledge, is the largest case series that reports an overview of the use of various adulterated Proprietary Chinese medicine and health products and the resulting adverse effects. From 2005 to 2015, we have identified 404 cases involving the use of 487 adulterated pCMs or health products with a total of 1234 adulterants detected. The adulterants consisted of approved drugs, banned drugs, drug analogues and animal thyroid tissue.

The six most common categories of adulterants detected were nonsteroidal ant-inflammatory drugs (18%), anorectics (15%), corticosteroids (14%), diuretics and laxatives (11%), oral antidiabetic agents (10%), and erectile dysfunction drugs (6%). Sibutramine, an anorectic that has been withdrawn from the market owing to its association with increased cardiovascular events and strokes, was the most common adulterant identified. A significant proportion of patients (65.1%) had adverse effects that were attributable to these illicit products, including 14 severe and two fatal cases. These illicit Proprietary Chinese medicine and health products pose severe health hazards to the public.

Continue reading

Chinese Medicine Compound Investigated For Anti-Cancer Properties Interview with:

Professor David Adelson PhD Chair of Bioinformatics The University of Adelaide

Dr. David Adelson

Professor David Adelson PhD
Chair of Bioinformatics
The University of Adelaide What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Chinese Medicine has been used for thousands of years to treat a number of diseases, but with few exceptions, has not been linked to specific molecular mechanisms that might explain its mode of action. This is because the Chinese Medicine formulations are often combinations of multiple plant extracts and are thus complex molecular mixtures. Fractionation of these extracts to test individual components often demonstrates low or no activity for individual components of these mixtures.

We decided to use a Systems Biology approach to investigate a well characterized, injectable extract from two plants that has been commonly used in conjunction with Western chemotherapy to treat cancer patients in China. We do not fractionate the mixture, but test it “as is” in order to determine the molecular consequences of the complex mixture. We limited this study to a specific breast cancer cell line (MCF-7) in order to determine if this preparation, Compound Kushen Injection (CKI), can directly affect cancer cells.

We found that CKI can kill MCF-7 cells and can also alter gene expression patterns associated with cell cycle control and cell death. The gene expression networks/pathways altered by CKI are similar to those altered by the Western chemotherapeutic drug 5-Fluorouracil (5FU), but the specific genes in those pathways with expression altered by CKI are often different to those affected by 5FU.

Continue reading

Rhematoid Arthritis: Treatment with Traditional Chinese Remedy

Zhang, Xuan MD Professor of Medicine Dept. of Rheumatology Peking Union Medical College Hospital Beijing,China, Interview with:
Zhang, Xuan MD
Professor of Medicine
Dept. of Rheumatology
Peking Union Medical College Hospital
Beijing,China,100730 and

Dr. Peter E. Lipsky, MD
Formerly National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, What are the main findings of the study?

Prof. Zhang & Lipsky--The results of this study indicate that TwHF is effective for the treatment of active rhematoid arthritis (RA). Importantly, these are the first data indicating that TwHF is effective in DMARD-naïve patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. At week 24, TwHF monotherapy resulted in significant improvement of disease activity, including pain assessment, the patient’s and physician’s global assessment, tender joint counts, swollen joint counts, ESR, CRP, and HAQ and SF-36 scores. MTX monotherapy and TwHF monotherapy had similar efficacy as shown by ACR20, ACR50 and ACR70 response criteria, EULAR and cDAI good response criteria, as well as DAS28 remission criteria and low disease activity(LDA) rate. The efficacy of TwHF was not inferior to that of MTX, and MTX +TwHF combination therapy was more effective than MTX monotherapy in treating active rhematoid arthritis. A safety evaluation of the study demonstrated that the frequency of total adverse events and severe adverse events of TwHF monotherapy was not significantly higher than that of MTX monotherapy, except for a slightly increased frequency of irregular menstruation. Continue reading