Harmful chemical found in traditional medicines
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The National Drug and Food Monitoring Agency (BPOM) revealed that several traditional medicines sold to the public in cities across the country contained a chemical substance that can harm consumers.
The agency stated that the traditional medicines in question are mostly sold in Denpasar (Bali), Samarinda (East Kalimantan), Semarang (Central Java) and Surabaya (East Java).
“Traditional medicines became popular earlier this year, possibly because more people got sick due to economic hardships,” the agency’s deputy head, Tengku Bahdar Johan Hamid, told a press conference in Jakarta on Tuesday.
He said the chemical substance used in the traditional medicines is normally found in anti-rheumatic prescription drugs such as phenylbutazone and piroxicam or in painkillers such as paracetamol and mefenamic acid.
Studies show that the improper use of drug substances can pose health risks. Phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug commonly used as an anti-rheumatic, is known to cause various health problems, such as gastric problems, kidney failure, leukocytopenia and aplastic anemia, if used improperly.
Excessive use of paracetamol can lead to chronic liver damage.
The chemical substance found in traditional medicines in the period between 2008 and 2011 was normally found in aphrodisiac drugs such as sildenafil and tadalafil. Agency data showed the use of rheumatic drugs and pain killers in traditional medicines was also a trend in the period between 2001 and 2007.
“Instead of visiting doctors, people, in particular those from low-income families, would rather consume traditional medicines to cure their health problems,” he said.
Up to the middle of this year, the BPOM has recalled 25 items of traditional medicine, tainted with the drug substance, from local markets. This number is down from 64 in 2010 and 98 in 2009. During the operation, 41,449 tainted products were destroyed. However, Bahdar said, the figure came from a routine inspection it held in certain regions, raising the possibility that it was only the tip of iceberg.
The agency has also canceled the distribution licenses it granted to the manufacturers of six traditional products after finding them to be tainted by the drug substance.
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