Pain relief products purchased from dubious sources lead to serious health problems

Traditional medicines, Adulterated health products, General safety

Health products promising quick or miraculous results for chronic conditions are usually too good to be true. Many of these products claim to be made from all-natural ingredients and safe to use. However, they are usually tested to contain potent western medicinal ingredients such as steroids which should only be consumed under medical supervision, and should not be taken long-term.

If after taking the product, you feel unwell or experience quick results for chronic medical conditions (e.g., fast pain relief), see a doctor as soon as possible. Your products may contain ingredients that were illegally added to enhance their effects. For products from unfamiliar or dubious online sources, you would not be able to confirm what the product contains, or where and how they were made, even if they were recommended by friends or family. When purchasing health products, always rely on reputable sources.

Consult your doctor, pharmacist, or traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) physician if you need help in managing your chronic medical conditions such as joint pain, arthritis and rheumatism.

Unwanted troubles from health products from dubious sources


A woman in her 70s suffered from adrenal insufficiency, a serious condition where the body does not produce adequate amounts of steroid hormones, after consuming the ‘WAN LING REN SEM CHIN KUO PILL’. She had severe difficulty in breathing and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The woman had purchased the product overseas and taken it daily for four to five years to relieve rheumatism and pain.


Another woman in her 70s had consumed ‘AUSBEE AUSTRALIA® AUSBEE Herbal Powder Capsules’ for about two years to relieve her back pain. She was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit after suffering from complications and a severe drop in her blood pressure following surgery for a fracture. The woman had obtained the product from overseas through her friends.

Both products were tested by HSA to contain dexamethasone, a potent steroid. In addition, ‘AUSBEE AUSTRALIA® AUSBEE Herbal Powder Capsules’ was also found to contain undeclared antibiotics, a painkiller and an anti-allergy medicine which can cause serious adverse reactions and drug interactions.

Steroids are commonly added to dubious health products to deceive consumers that these products achieve fast pain relief and reduce swelling. However, these are potent medications which should only be taken under medical supervision. Inappropriate use of oral steroids can cause serious adverse effects. These include increased blood glucose levels (which may lead to diabetes), high blood pressure, cataracts, muscular and bone disorders, an increased risk of infections and Cushing’s syndrome (a condition caused by prolonged ingestion of steroids, characterised by the appearance of round face or ‘moon face’ and upper body obesity with thin limbs).

Sellers should note that it is illegal to sell and supply complementary health products (e.g. traditional medicines, health supplements) containing potent medicinal ingredients or banned substances. Anyone who supplies such health products is liable to prosecution and if convicted, may be imprisoned for up to 3 years and/or fined up to $100,000.

You can help us combat adulterated, counterfeit and substandard health products. Report any suspicious sale or advertising of health products to HSA through e-mail or phone at 6866 3485.