Consumers warned about toxicity of traditional medicines

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May 22, 2007  
Filed under Uncategorized

Reuters – About 200,000 people die in China each year from improper use of drugs, Chinese doctors and pharmacists say, and they are calling for greater efforts to educate consumers.

Mainland Chinese rely more on traditional Chinese medicines than on Western drugs and they tend to use them carelessly because of a widespread misconception that traditional medicines are not toxic or have no side effects.

“People should be told that they can’t consume drugs any way they want. There is no drug that has no side effects, they must not take drugs like they eat rice,” said Professor Jin Shiming, a committee member of the Guangdong Provincial Science and Technological Association.

Speaking at a conference on drug safety organized by the Guangdong Province Association of traditional Chinese medicine and a Chinese newspaper, Jin said nearly 200,000 people die each year from improper use of legitimate drugs. He did not explain how the panelists had calculated that number.

“All drugs have some level of toxicity. We can only cut back on the toxicity and reduce adverse reactions with accurate usage,” he said.

Jin and other experts at the seminar described patients who took excessive doses of traditional medicine in the belief that they would recover more quickly.

Traditional Chinese doctor Mei Quanxi from the Zhongshan Chinese Medicine Hospital cited a case where a man died after consuming a whole ginseng root that his wife bought him. Ginseng is used in the treatment of diabetes and sexual dysfunction.

“If you use a lot of it as a tonic, it is dangerous, which is why we have a saying that ginseng can kill,” Mei told Reuters after the conference.