An eczema cream sold on a retail website based in Malaysia was found to have contained more than 430 times the allowed limits of arsenic, and Singapore health authorities have warned users there to see a doctor “as soon as possible”.
The cream, Euzema Confidence Revival Cream, was among 4 products that were found to contain potent or banned ingredients, said the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in Singapore on Tuesday (Nov 21).
After using the cream for eczema for a year, a man in his 30s developed a skin reaction called purpura, where purplish red spots appear due to small bleeds under the skin.
His doctor suspected that the adverse skin reaction was caused by realgar, a mineral containing arsenic that was labelled on the cream. The doctor reported it to HSA.
The man had bought the cream from a retail website based in Malaysia and it is also sold on Singapore e-commerce platform Carousell.
Euzema’s website claimed users would be “able to beat eczema for good with this powerful natural formula”, and that the cream was “steroid-free”, “contained 100 percent all-natural herbs” and that it had “no side effects”.
HSA’s tests showed that it contained more than 430 times the allowed limits of arsenic. The cream also contained very high levels of betamethasone – a potent steroid – and salicylic acid.
Arsenic, a toxic heavy metal, can cause skin irritations, contact dermatitis with symptoms such as skin rashes and blisters, or rashes resulting in skin peeling. Widespread, prolonged application of products containing high levels of arsenic may lead to arsenic poisoning.
Betamethasone should only be used under strict medical supervision, as it can cause serious adverse effects if used inappropriately.
“Long-term steroid use can suppress the body’s production of steroids and sudden stopping without medical supervision may cause serious withdrawal symptoms such as adrenal insufficiency leading to confusion, muscle and joint pain, low blood pressure and fits or shocks,” said HSA.
Adrenal insufficiency occurs when the body is not able to produce adequate amounts of steroid hormone cortisol. This can lead to fatigue, muscle and joint pain, low blood pressure, fits or shock.
Salicylic acid is used to treat common skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and dandruff, and could lead to dry, irritated and red skin if used in high amounts, the authority said.
3 WEIGHT LOSS PRODUCTS WITH POTENT OR BANNED INGREDIENTS
HSA also received feedback from members of the public about the sale of 3 weight loss products – HONEY Q Dietary Supplement Product, SLIME 7D ADVANCE Slimming Pill and FINOs. One consumer experienced vomiting and a headache after taking FINOs.
All 3 products claimed to be “herbal and natural” and were sold on local e-commerce and social media platforms, including Lazada, Qoo10, Shopee and eBay.
SLIME 7D ADVANCE Slimming Pill additionally claimed to have no banned substances. “Contrary to the product claims, HSA tested and detected potent medicinal ingredients, including sibutramine, benzyl sibutramine, fluoxetine and orlistat in the product,” said the authority.
Sibutramine has been banned in Singapore since 2010 due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. It was previously a prescription-only medicine for weight loss. The use of sibutramine and benzyl sibutramine may cause serious adverse effects, including high blood pressure, increased heart rate, anxiety and heart attacks.
Fluoxetine is a prescription-only medicine that should only be used under medical supervision, while orlistat is a pharmacy-only medicine that should be used under the supervision of a pharmacist or doctor.
The agency has alerted its Malaysian counterpart to these products as they were labelled to be manufactured in Malaysia and sold by sellers or websites based in Malaysia.
Source: Channel News Asia (21 November 2023)