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Dubious herbal meds harm kidneys

Update: October, 19/2016 - 09:00
A doctor performs dialysis on a patient with kidney failure. Many patients further damage their kidneys by using herbal medicines of unclear origin. — VNAVNA Photo
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY Patients with chronic kidney failure are putting their lives at risks when they use herbal medicines of unclear origin, a nephrologist said.  

Within the first week of this month, the Kidney–Dialysis Department of Thống Nhất Hospital admitted three patients with chronic kidney failure for emergency treatment. Their kidneys got weaker after using herbal medicines of unmarked origins.

A 74-year-old patient in HCM City (whose name was not specified) got acute kidney failure due to a severe inflammation of the renal tubes and bought herbal medicines from a charlatan in hopes of easing limb pain.

His body swelled after three days of using the medicine. He got a dialysis at the hospital, but his kidneys never completely recovered.

Another patient, aged 87, used to drink powder ground from rhino horns in hopes of easing joint and back pains. After three months, she felt weaker and tired of eating. Results from a medical examination at the hospital showed a significant decrease in her kidney functions, despite them being healthy at previous checkups.

Nguyễn Bách, head of the department, said that each month the hospital’s kidney clinic treats an average of 2,000 patients with kidney failures.

Of those, some 20 patients got their kidneys severely damaged by medicines of unclear origin, he said. Some got hospitalised for long-term treatment, some must rely on dialysis for the rest of their lives.

Speaking at a conference on drug quality and origin control last month, Trương Quốc Cường, head of the Drug Administration of Việt Nam under the Health Ministry, announced that traditional herbal medicines of poor quality dominated the domestic market.

More than 80 per cent of the 60,000 tonnes of herbal medicines consumed in Việt Nam each year are imported, most of them illegally, he said.

Phạm Vũ Khánh, head of the Traditional Medicine Association, said that only 2.3 per cent (some 1,400 tonnes) of herbal medicines consumed in the country are imported with clear origin, which implies rampant smuggling.

There are two groups of patients who often got sudden renal failures due to the exploitation of unprescribed allopathic medicines, traditional herbal medicines, dietary supplements of unclear origin, medical liquor and rhino horn powder, according to Bách: elders who suffer from chronic joint and back pains and youth who want to improve their health and physiologic capabilities.

Bách said that medicine users should be wary of suspicious medicines, conduct thorough research about their origins before using them and only use medicines that are prescribed by doctors.

To prevent acute kidney failure complications, patients with kidney failure should not buy or use anti-inflammatory medicines without doctors’ prescription.

Traditional medicines should be purchased at certified medical centres in order to reduce health risks. VNS

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