Behind the Headlines

Tuesday April 7 2009

'Jia Yi Jian' contains harmful levels of prescription only drugs

A ‘herbal Viagra’ sold in many traditional Chinese medicine stores contains ‘dangerously high’ levels of prescription-only anti-obesity and erectile dysfunction drugs, the UK's medicine watchdog has warned. Despite claiming to contain only herbal ingredients, the product actually contains up to four times the levels of the pharmaceuticals found in legal prescription drugs.

The unlicensed product 'Jia Yi Jian', has been analysed by the MHRA and found to contain the undeclared ingredients Sibutramine, used to treat obesity, and Tadalafil, for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

These drugs are licensed as prescription-only drugs in the UK. Potential side effects include significant heart and blood pressure problems and potential harmful interactions with other blood pressure and heart disease medications and some antidepressants.

The MHRA warns that this product presents ‘a clear risk’ to consumers and that anyone taking it should stop immediately and consult their GP.

What is the product?

Jia Yi Jian is manufactured by Hunan Aimin Pharmaceuticals Ltd. The MHRA reports that it is sold in many traditional Chinese medicine stores.

It is marketed online as a ‘100% natural solution, which can be taken regularly, without the harmful side effects and risks often caused by similar western remedies’.

Who has given the warning?

The warning has been issued by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which is the government agency responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are acceptably safe.

Why is it dangerous?

Despite claims that its ingredients are 100% natural, the product contains dangerously high levels of two prescription-only drugs, which even when given in normal doses, can have potentially serious side effects. They can also have harmful interactions with other medications.

The first, Tadalafil, is used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction and the product contains 50.06mg of this ingredient, more than twice the maximum dosage allowed in legitimate drugs (20mg per tablet).

The product also contains 68.1mg of Sibutramine, which is used to treat obesity. This is more than four times the 15mg allowed in legitimate drugs.

These medications are carefully prescribed in the UK, and patients receiving these medicines are regularly assessed and monitored.

The potentially serious side effects for Tadalafil include heart and blood pressure problems and priapsim (persistent and painful erection).

The potentially serious side effects for Sibutramine include heart and blood pressure problems and mental health problems.

I have taken some Jia Yi Jian. What should I do?

Anyone taking the product should stop immediately and consult their GP. People who are considering taking it for erectile dysfunction should instead visit their GP with the aim of having a proper diagnosis and getting legitimate medications. This could also have other benefits, as erectile dysfunction can also be a symptom of serious conditions such as heart disease.

Edited by NHS Choices

Further reading

Serious health risk posed by Traditional Chinese Medicine ‘Herbal Viagra’. MHRA press release, April 07 2009


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