Wednesday 18 October 2017

'100pc herbal' traditional Chinese medicine contained serious health risk ingredients

Tom Tuite

A TRADITIONAL Chinese medicine practitioner believed she had stocked “100 per cent herbal” viagra-like products which turned out to be laced with drugs that carry serious public health risks, a court has heard.

The prosecution at Dublin District Court was brought by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB), which had carried out an inspection at a premises called Dr Acupuncture, at the Nutgrove Shopping Centre, in Rathfarnham.

WDZ Partnership Ltd, which has an address at Henry Street in Dublin, and one of its directors Ms Sonya Hui Wang (aged 36), who resides at Portland Street in Dublin city-centre but is originally from China, pleaded guilty to breaking medicinal products regulations.

The IMB alleged that prescription controlled medicines were on sale at the Dr Acupuncture premises on April 6, 2011.

The woman and their company, which she runs with her husband, were accused of stocking medicines containing the active ingredient Sibutramine which was once used in slimming tablets.

According to summons issued against the defendants, the traditional medicine shop had stocked various other medicines, including products called “Strong Lion Viagra” and “Hard In the End”, which contained the active ingredient Sildenafil.

Sildenafil is used to treat erectile dysfunction, confined to prescription control and requires advise of a medical practitioner.

It was also alleged that the defendants advertised a herbal Viagra medicine which had the ingredient Tadalafil, another drug used in the treatment of impotence.

Brenda Kirby, an enforcement officer at the IMB, told the court that products seized were analysed and found to contain prescription controlled medicines.

She told the IMB's solicitor Ronan O'Neill that Sibutramine was an ingredient in one product and Ms Kirby added that it has been “withdrawn from the market because the risks outweighed the benefits”.

The court heard that the text on the labels of the products was in Chinese and Ms Wang had told Ms Kirby that this led her to believe all the products were “100 per cent herbal”.

The products containing the active ingredients Tadalafil and Sildenafil had public health and safety issues and they are also subject to prescription control to ensure the user is getting the correct medicine, the court heard

They can cause health risks to a person with underlying medical problems, Judge John O'Neill was told.

Judge O'Neill heard that the stock had three sources: a closing down sale of another business in Swords in Dublin, a supplier in the UK and some of the products had been bought from a salesman.

The woman told the IMB that she thought there should be list available of medicinal products that are subject to prescription control. However, Ms Kirby explained that was difficult to do in relation to the type of products at the centre of the investigation as they regularly changed their names.

The defence lawyer said that the potency of the products was not known but Ms Wang was remorseful that they could have had dangerous and tragic effects.

The charges, on conviction, can result maximum fines of €2,000 as well sentences of up to 12 months imprisonment per offence.

Judge John O'Neill noted that the mother-of-two had no prior criminal convictions and had paid €4,300 to cover the IMB's legal costs. He also took her guilty plea and co-operation with the IMB into consideration and ordered her to donate €1,500 to the Fr Peter McVerry Trust.

He told Ms Wang that if this is done by December 9 he will apply the Probation Act which would see her spared a conviction as well as possible jail term.

However, fines totalling €2,000 were levied against the company WDZ Partnership Ltd.

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