Chinese herb banned after two deaths

AN EMERGENCY ban has been imposed on the import, sale and supply of a herb used in traditional Chinese herbal medicines after two users in the UK suffered kidney failure.

The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) imposed the immediate ban on Aristolochia, on the advice of the Committee on Safety of Medicines, which will last for three months.

Aristolochia is a herb used in Chinese medicine to treat fluid retention and rheumatic symptoms. But it has been a prescription-only medicine since 1997 because research has found that the herb can be toxic and cause kidney damage.

It can be easily confused with two other harmless Chinese herbs, Stephania and Clematis, used to treat similar problems. In 1993, 70 people in Belgium suffered from kidney failure after taking a slimming preparation in which Aristolochia had been used instead of Stephania. Both have the Chinese name Fangji.

The two UK cases of kidney failure happened after people took medicines with the herbal ingredient Mu Tong, the name used to describe at least four different plants including Clematis and Aristolochia. In both cases, the toxic herb was mistakenly used instead of the harmless plants. The Chinese herbal medicine industry is worth an estimated pounds 54m in this country, and is often used by people who want to seek less conventional medical relief for their skin or asthma problems.

Organisations representing Chinese medicine suppliers have voluntarily suspended use of Mu Tong and Fangji in a bid to ensure there is no confusion. "I have sent out a note to all our members informing them that Aristolochia is now banned," said Dr Lee Lin, president of the Chinese Medical Practitioners Association.

"I fully support any move towards regulation as long it does not add another layer of bureaucracy and helps to educate and inform the public about the benefits of Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine is safe but people should ensure they go to a registered practitioner." The ban came into effect yesterday and will last three months while the MCA consults the industry.

Officials are also considering whether to impose a permanent ban on the herbs which can be confused with Aristolochia. Herbal medicines are not subject to the same controls as licensed medicines and there have long been fears over their safety. Homeopathic medicines derived from Aristolochia are not covered by the ban because experts consider them too dilute to carry any risk of toxicity.

Debbie Shaw, an expert on the side-effects of Chinese medicines, said that responsible practitioners had already stopped using Aristolochia. She said: "There is no need to panic. People with these preparations should stop using them, then take them back to their practitioner to make sure they do not contain Aristolochia."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam