A ‘life risking’ remedy!

For thousands of centuries, herbal preparations have been used by humans for medicinal purposes.
However, all that is natural need not be safe, especially when mixed with other pharmaceutical medications or non-prescription dietary supplements.
Such an act can trigger severe health problems, including putting lives at risk.
A study conducted by a team of researchers at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) found that herbal remedies combined with pharmaceutical products are widely in use in the Sultanate.
“There are some fraudulent businessmen, in a bid to seek quick profits, unfortunately add pharmaceutical drugs to herbal remedies at the expense of the wellness of the general public”, said Dr Haider al Lawati, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry at SQU.
A number of suspicious specimens were used in the study, which was done in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the Consumer Protection Authority and SQU Hospital.
While Dr Lawati was the principal investigator of the team, he was joined by Prof Fakhruddin Sulaiman, Prof Salma al Kindi and Pharmacist Mohammed Noor.
“We observed that those products, available in different forms, both as medicinal products and herbs, are marketed as food products”, Dr Lawati said.
He cited the examples of some kinds of tea and honey mixed with certain herbal remedies.
“None of these products mention on their labels that pharmaceutical products have been added to the herbal products”, he pointed out in a report.
The study also found that a number of so-called products in the market contained drugs with a certain amount of pharmacological effect.
The herbal products that are manipulated, whether marketed as pharmaceutical, herbal or fortified food products, are about 15 per cent of the products analysed, Dr Lawati said. “We also found that some of these products are prepared locally, such as honey mixed with herbal materials. Some samples of this kind of products are mixed with common drugs that are used as stimulants”, he pointed out.
Viagra, which can be taken only with a prescription by a registered health practitioner, has been detected in a large number of spurious herbal products, he revealed.
In the beginning of this year, four herbal-based medical products were banned by the Ministry of Health citing health reasons.
It warned against using Shark Extract Tablets, Vimax Capsules, Kamagra Oral Jelly and Dragon’s Delay Spray for containing life-threatening chemicals that may lead to a heart attack or even death.
“Laboratory tests conducted on the banned products showed chemical substances which are not mentioned in the composition of drug formulation or in the leaflet attached to the product”, the ministry had warned in its note in January.
Dr Lawati, while underlining the importance of sustainable monitoring of the local market to detect any fraud in such products, called for bringing together the efforts of various competent authorities to keep check on those ‘unruly’ businessmen who play with the health of the public.
The Sultanate has a long and rich heritage in herbal medicine, which should be extensively exploited, investigated and protected against manipulations, the study concludes with a call for raising public awareness about the risk involved in such fake products.