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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada