Recently, there have been reports in Hong Kong that many hospitalized patients in the pathology department have fallen victim to adulterants hidden in doses of traditional Chinese medicine and supplements. These products, despite being illegal and banned in Hong Kong, still manage to find their way into these medicines.
Statistics show that in the range of one decade from 2005 to 2015, around 404 people age 1-90 months were hospitalized after taking contaminated supplements and medicine. It is important to note that this study only encompasses those who took their medicine in the form of a pill, and does not include the majority of those who take their medicine through more traditional means, such as the whole unprocessed plant or animal materials.
This is a dangerous problem not only in Hong Kong, but in the rest of China. In just several samples, thousands of dangerous, illegal ingredients have been found in many supplements that people take daily. If this pattern is the same throughout other places of China, where traditional Chinese medicines are even more common than in Hong Kong, then there may be a widespread cause of disease from these substances.
In Taiwan, in a study of about 2,600 Chinese medicine products, at least a quarter were contaminated with illegal synthetic drugs. In the United States, the FDA has several hundred adulterated supplements on the market as well.
The issue of various illegal and dangerous substances being incorporated into traditional medicine in China is a problem that has only been growing since the surge of laboratory medicine. Policies and laws should be placed on manufacturers for mandatory inspections of all processed medicines as well as tighter security. The public can also be educated to be more aware of what is in the various medicines they take.