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Medicine for toddlers 'contains carcinogen'

(Shanghai Daily)

08:44, April 27, 2013

A drug targeted at toddlers and the elderly contains a carcinogen.

Simotang Koufuye, a liquid taken orally to aid the digestive system, was found to contain areca nuts, an ingredient listed as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization in 2003, the National Business Daily reported yesterday.

The medicine's producer, the Hunan Hansen Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, based in central China's Hunan Province, didn't mention the risk of cancer in instructions that came with the product, the report said.

Drug stores in Changchun in northeast China's Jilin Province have taken the medicine off their shelves, the newspaper reported.

Several Shanghai drug stores, however, said yesterday that the drug was still available.

A member of staff at the Huashi Pharmacy's Meilong outlet said "the oral liquid has sold well."

According to the pharmaceutical company's website, Simotang Koufuye contains four herbs including areca nuts, but there is no mention of a cancer risk. The instructions only say the liquid should not be taken during pregnancy or by patients who had undergone digestive system surgery.

Research found a high risk of oral cancer among people regularly chewing areca nuts, the newspaper reported.

When Hunan Hansen listed on the stock market in 2010, the company described its traditional medicine herbs as "regular and affordable ingredients," without mentioning the toxicity of areca nuts, according to the report.

Trading was suspended on Thursday.

Simotang Koufuye has been a crucial product for the company, accounting for more than 60 percent of sales in the past five years, the report said. In 2012, sales reached 336 million yuan (US$54 million).

Hunan Hansen released a statement on Thursday insisting the medicine was "very safe."

It said the drug only uses parts of the areca nut which can stimulate intestinal muscles and it had passed State Food and Drug Administration toxicity tests.

"The formula dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and has a clinical use history of several hundred years.

"So far no cancer case related to Simotang Koufuye is reported," the statement said.

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