Spot treatment gave woman cancer, court told

A civil servant suffered cancer and kidney failure after taking pills sold by a Chinese herbal shop to clear up spots on her face, a court heard today.

Patricia Booth took the medicine bought at a shop in Chelmsford, Essex, for five and a half years, a jury was told.

The Chinese Herbal Medical Centre advertised its products as "safe and natural and without side effects", the Old Bailey heard.

Mrs Booth was taken ill months after she stopped taking the pills, and they were found to contain a banned substance, aristolochic acid, the court was told.

Mrs Booth's health deteriorated to such an extent that her kidneys were "destroyed", she had cancer, and suffered a heart attack.

She now has to go to hospital three times a week for dialysis and would be unable to come to court, instead giving evidence via videolink, jurors heard.

Ying "Susan" Wu, 48, of Holland-on-Sea, Essex, denies a series of charges in relation to the sale of the medicine to Mrs Booth.

She and shop owner Thin "Patrick" Wong, 47, of Southend, deny further counts of possession of medicines without authorisation.

Julian Christopher, prosecuting, said Wu was employed as a "Chinese doctor" at the shop, which was in business from late 1996 until August 2003.

He said: "The case is concerned with pills which the prosecution allege were given by Susan Wu to one particular patient to take every day to clear up spots on her face and which the patient continued to take for five and a half years.

"They did indeed clear up her skin but turned out to have disastrous consequences. They completely destroyed her kidneys and gave her cancer."

Mr Christopher said Mrs Booth was in her mid-40s when she first started taking the pills in 1997.

"She was the manager of a Government office in charge of 50 to 60 people and in good health save that she was troubled by unsightly patches of spots similar to acne," he said.

"She had seen various NHS doctors but all they could offer was more antibiotics and she didn't like the idea of taking antibiotics long term."

He said Mrs Booth was walking past the Chinese medicine shop when she saw a leaflet advertising its products.

The court heard that in February 1997 she and her husband went into the premises for a consultation and met Wu.

Mrs Booth was taken to a consultation room where an elderly Chinese man was introduced to her as a doctor. He asked her questions in Chinese, translated by Wu, jurors were told.

The court heard she was given herbs to boil up and drink but did not like the "horrible" taste and on returning to the shop was given some pills instead by Wu, and did not see the elderly male "doctor" again.

She was told by Wu to take a cap full - about 30 pills - three times a day, Mr Christopher said.

"The pills did clear her spots and she went back to the shop again every 10 days or so, buying two or three bottles each time from Susan Wu, with the dose decreasing over time as her skin got better."

Mrs Booth carried on taking them until around November 2002, the court heard.

Mr Christopher said: "She wasn't feeling well then. She thought she had flu and she hadn't been feeling well for some considerable time.

"She didn't get better and went to hospital in February 2003 for a blood test. There it was discovered she was suffering from chronic long-term kidney failure. Sadly her condition has got worse since then."

Mrs Booth has been on dialysis since 2003, the court heard.

She was initially to have the treatment at home and was put on the list for a kidney transplant until 2006, when she developed cancer, Mr Christopher said.

Mrs Booth had to have "major surgery" to remove her urinary tract and kidneys, the court was told.

She must now go to hospital three times a week for dialysis, and in August 2008 had a heart attack. She has undergone further surgery and is still waiting to go back on the kidney transplant list, jurors heard.

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