Materia Medica Malaysiana

August 30, 2003

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Daily Yomiuri On-Line: Ex-bureaucrat builds welfare facilities in Malaysia
: Shozo Sugimoto Yomiuri Light and Love Organization

In 1993, a Heath and Welfare Ministry bureaucrat quit his job working on behalf of the disabled and left for Malaysia.
‘I wanted to search for the meaning of welfare service (in Malaysia) where my father died as a soldier,’ said Ken Nakazawa, 62. Every summer, Nakazawa envisions his father’s sorrow as he died shortly after the end of World War II.
‘I thought Malaysia must have a different welfare system from that of Japan, which is heavily dependent on facilities,’ he said, explaining why he left the ministry.
This month, Nakazawa opened a center and a home for the mentally disabled on Penang Island, west of the Malay Peninsula.
He did research for the program at a local university, and has opened a health care center for handicapped children, a job-training facility for adults and a mobile service to lend educational toys to infants.
The facility was built on a 2,000-square-meter plot of land, which was previously a palm forest.
Nakazawa has supporters in Japan, including Miyagi Gov. Shiro Asano, a former colleague.
Nakazawa said he had difficulties when he was raising funds for the facilities, but because of his Christian faith, inherited from his parents, he did not give up.
‘I feel the greatest joy when I see the faces of handicapped children and adults brighten with joy,’ he said.
Malaysia is a multiethnic nation of Malays, Chinese, Indians and others. Nakazawa is sympathetic to the concept of the ‘caring society’ advocated by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
‘This country’s diversity and receptivity is a model for welfare systems in the rest of the world,’ he said.
“The combination of self-help, mutual help and public help is important for welfare systems,” he said. “In Japan, where the welfare system excessively relies on public assistance, welfare activities may be isolated from the public.”

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August 29, 2003

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US award for public health advocate

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian public health advocate Mary Assunta has been conferred a prestigious award for outstanding individual leadership by the American Cancer Society for her contributions to the tobacco control movement.
Assunta, 46, is the first Malaysian to have been conferred the Luther L. Terry Award which is named after the former US surgeon-general who published the first scientific findings establishing the links between tobacco use, lung cancer and other illnesses in 1964.

Mary Assunta
She received the award in Helsinki, Finland, on Aug 4 during a special ceremony at the 12th World Conference on Tobacco or Health and shared the award with sociologist and University of Sydney professor of public health Simon Chapman.
An American Cancer Society press release said Assunta was recognised for her more than 25 years of work as a vocal opponent of the tobacco industry’s rising influence in developing nations.
“Her tireless efforts on behalf of these countries was instrumental in putting their perspectives on the international tobacco control agenda,” the statement said.
Assunta worked with the Consumers Association of Penang for 20 years before joining the University of Sydney for her postgraduate studies.
She is now pursuing her PhD in Public Health at the University of Sydney, Australia.

August 28, 2003

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Utusan Malaysia Online – Home News:

Investigate death linked to okra – farmers federation
KUALA LUMPUR Aug 27 – The Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers Associations Wednesday urged the Health Ministry to investigate the death of a Negeri Sembilan woman after she ate some okra (lady’s fingers) Tuesday.
Association president Tan Su Chow said the Health Ministry must investigate the death as many people believed it was the result of food poisoning.
‘We hope the Agriculture Ministry will consider the matter seriously to avoid a negative perception of vegetables farmed by locals and to assure everyone that local produce is safe for general consumption,’ he said in a statement issued here.
He was commenting on the death of Mah Kiew @ Khiok, 60, Tuesday night at her home in Kampung Pasir Mas in Rantau, Seremban.
Three of her sons – Tan Sze Hock, 34; Tan See Leong, 33; and Tan See Choong, 31 – who also ate the okra were admitted to Seremban Hospital at 1 am and are reportedly in stable condition, he said.
The woman’s youngest son, Tan Wee Lee, 21, said his mother vomitted and fainted a few times before she died at midnight. Her body was sent to the Seremban Hospital for a post mortem.
Her husband, Tan Chong Heng, 69, who also ate the okra, did not face any problem.
Tan said the death was inexplicable because food and agriculture experts have observed that the consumption of chemically-tainted vegetables does not result in death.
‘This is a strange case and prior to a thorough investigation we cannot not make any presumption – that the death was caused by the consumption of the lady’s fingers,’ he said.
However, he reminded all farmers to follow the guidelines issued by the Agriculture Ministry, including the practices on using chemicals to ensure safety of locally farmed food.

“On behalf of the association, we feel sad and remain grieved by this death,” Tan said.

Meanwhile, the State Health Director, Dr Rosnah Ismail, Wednesday confirmed that Mah Kiew @ Khiok, 60, died of food poisoning.

The Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers Associations earlier said the woman had died in her home at midnight Tuesday while three of her sons were admitted to Seremban after consuming okra, or lady’s fingers.

Dr Rosnah said the confirmation was based on a post mortem on Mah Kiew.

Nevertheless, it’s not clear where the poison originated.

“Samples of the food, water and other materials were taken from the family’s home and sent to the Chemical Department for analysis,” she said at the Seremban Hospital here.

Also present were the State Woman’s Affairs, Community Development and Social Action Committee Chairman Datuk Norhayati Omar and the Seremban Hospital Director, Datin Dr Zailan Adnan.

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HIV/TB co-infections up: “KUALA LUMPUR: The number of people in Malaysia who are co-infected with both tuberculosis (TB) and HIV is on the increase, and they are mostly from prisons and drug rehabilitation centres, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said.
He said the HIV/AIDS epidemic since the 1980s had had a significant impact on the incidence of TB because the immuno-deficiency status of HIV/AIDS patients made them more susceptible to TB and other infections.
“While in 1990 we had only six reported cases of TB/HIV co-infections, representing 0.06% of the total number of reported TB cases then, this number has increased to 933 cases or 6.5% of the total number of reported TB cases in 2002.
“Our TB/HIV problem lies mainly in the prisons and drug rehabilitation centres because of the captive population there,” Chua said yesterday, when opening the annual general meeting of the Malaysian Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis here.
He said the ministry had been urging and collaborating with the National Drug Agency and the Prisons Department to screen inmates for TB, and was in the midst of preparing guidelines for the detection and treatment of TB patients to be used by personnel there.
“We must have a standard policy everywhere whereby those who have TB are also screened for HIV,” Chua said, adding that these guidelines in Bahasa Malaysia and English would be out soon.
The ministry in collaboration with the Academy of Medicine, Malaysia has already issued a second edition of the Practice Guidelines for the Control and Management of Tuberculosis for doctors, health care providers and non-governmental organisations.
He also said that almost 10% of the TB cases reported last year were foreign workers.
“Last year, out of 400,000 foreign workers screened”

August 27, 2003

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Herbal drinks firm gets two weeks to back claims

IPOH: The company that produces the Orang Kampung brand Kacip Fatimah and Tongkat Ali herbal drinks has been given two weeks to respond to an allegation of misleading the public with false information about its products.

State Health Department director Datuk Dr Abd Razak Kechik said it would consider not taking court action against Syarikat Perniagaan Orang Kampung if it provided reasonable grounds for its claims that the two herbal drinks could, among others, kill cancer cells and cure hypertension, diabetes and malaria.

He said this included the company’s readiness to change the health information printed on the labels of its canned drinks.

“It is all right for the company to make general claims on the nutritional value of the drinks but it should not mention specifically that its products could cure cancer and diabetes,” he added.

Dr Abd Razak said this when commenting on the company’s factory manager Wan Saiful Wan Haizan’s denial that the labels were misleading and therefore violated Rule 18 (3) of the Food Act and Regulations 1985.

He also said the department would advise the company to recall all the Kacip Fatimah and Tongkat Ali canned drinks with the misleading labels.

Dr Abd Razak had led an operation to check food products on Monday, when three cartons of the herbal drinks produced by the company based in Merlimau, Malacca, were seized from several sundry shops in Kuala Kangsar.

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eTaiwanNews.com/Using aromatherapy burners dangerous, agency says

I notice that Aromatherapy is becoming another “fad” (as usual with little evidence based backing) in Malaysia. This news snippet from Taiwan should hopefully throw some caution into those who practice aromatherapy.

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Following a spate of reports on shoddy aromatherapy oil burners exploding while in use causing injury and death, the Cabinet-level Consumer Protection Commission yesterday warned the public of the potential danger of the so-called therapeutic products.

Recent incidents involve the same design of aromatherapy diffusers similar in shape to alcohol burners but filled with aromatic oil diluted with isopropanol, a highly flammable and poisonous liquid. The diffuser ignites the concoction and is different in principle to oil vaporizes that heat the essential oil to release the aroma.

The Cabinet has assigned the Department of Health to be responsible for oversight and supervision of aromatherapy-related goods.

At a press conference held yesterday afternoon, Huang Horng-chyuan, Consumer Protection Commission spokesman said the government did not plan to prohibit the use of aromatherapy burners, but did pledge to conduct further inspections to be carried out under the DOH and Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Huang said as many aromatherapy goods producers claim their products possess therapeutic qualities. The Consumer Protection Commission considers the DOH as more suitable than other departments to investigate aromatherapy related goods. According to the Consumer Protection Law the CPC has the authority to assign a relevant government department to supervise trading activity.

“If any product is claimed to have therapeutic qualities by the seller then the DOH should actively initiate the inspection of these products, and should also ask MOEA and other related department to analyze the veracity of the claim,” said Huang.

“With regard to issues of safety of the aromatherapy burner and the quality of the aromatic oil, the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection under the MOEA will publish its findings in thirty days,” added Huang.

If the product after analysis did possess therapeutic qualities then the DOH would assume responsibility for supervision, Huang told the Taiwan News. However, if the claim proves to be erroneous, the DOH and Fair Trade Commission ought to invoke the Pharmaceutics Affairs Law and Fair Trade Law to punish the seller or producer.

With reference to specific claims made by a local social welfare foundation that alleges the inferior aromatherapy products exploded in 10 separate incidents, Huang said the CPC responded appropriately and had coordinated the DOH, MOEA and Taipei City Government to inspect the two dealers accused by consumers.

To date the official said the inspectors had found the two dealer’s product had violated the Pharmaceutic Affairs Law and Merchandise Label Law through inaccurately describing their merchandise and will mete out punishment, although he failed to provide details.

According to its spokesman the CPC has also ordered all local authorities to launch inspection of aromatherapy products sold in their jurisdiction. Violators of the Pharmaceutic Affairs Law and Consumer Protection Law will be given 30 days to rectify any breach.

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Herbal drinks seized in Perak

KUALA KANGSAR: Two popular herbal drinks with the brand name of Orang Kampung have violated the Food Act and Regulations 1985 by having misleading claims on the labels.

State Health Department director Datuk Dr Abd Razak Kechik said the claims on the labels of Kacip Fatimah and Tongkat Ali that the drinks could kill cancer cells, cure hypertension, diabetes and malaria and increase female hormones were against Rule 18 (3) of the Act.

He said the department had seized several cans of the drinks from shops here.

Dr Abd Razak said producers were prohibited from stating that their food and drink products contained health, medicinal or stimulant values.

MISLEADING CLAIMS:Dr Abd Razak (centre)reading the labels of the Orang Kampung drinks sold at a sundry shop in Taman Bunga Raya in Kuala Kangsar yesterday.
“The claims by the manufacturers contravened the health principle as there is no drug that could kill cancer cells except radiation treatment while diabetes could only be controlled and not cured completely,” he said during the department’s operation to check on food products sold at sundry shops in Taman Bunga Raya here yesterday.

“We do not want people to believe and depend on the products for treatment of certain illnesses,” he said.

Dr Abd Razak said records at the Ipoh Hospital showed that many cancer patients, especially Malays, had only sought treatment at a late stage.

He said the department would take the producer Syarikat Perniagaan Orang Kampung, based in Merlimau, Malacca, to court for misleading the public.

Under the act, he said the company could face a jail sentence of up to two years and a maximum fine of RM5,000 upon conviction.

The department also seized bottled mineral water for not bearing the Health Ministry approval code.

“The approval code KKM (Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia) is to ensure that the source of the mineral water is clean and is bottled according to the standard set by the ministry,” he said,

In Malacca, the producer of Kacip Fatimah and Tongkat Ali denied that information printed on the canned drinks was misleading.

Syarikat Perniagaan Orang Kampung factory manager Wan Saiful Wan Wan Haizan said the claims on the labels were vetted and approved by the relevant authorities after several amendments before the products entered the market more than a year ago.

He added the company had yet to receive any official notification from the health department.

“The words on the cans do not claim that the drinks can cure cancer or other illnesses. We merely quoted research findings that said extract from Tongkat Ali is believed to have certain medicinal values.

“We will contact the Health Ministry as soon as possible to get clarification on the matter,” he said, adding he was shocked to learn about the seizure by Perak health department in the media.

Wan Saiful said the factory with 30 workers in Merlimau produced 48,000 canned drinks daily and the products were distributed nationwide, including Sabah and Sarawak.

He said the drinks, priced at RM2.80 each, were also exported to Singapore and Indonesia.

He added the company, established in 1994, also produced Pegaga and Noni drinks.

August 26, 2003

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Treaty a way to seek redress

KUALA LUMPUR: Aggrieved Malaysians stricken with smoking-induced health problems can sue the tobacco industry after the Government ratifies the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control next year.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng, who is scheduled to sign the treaty on behalf of the Government in New York next month, said the move was reflective of Malaysia’s commitment to combat the menace and the tragedies caused by tobacco products.

“Enough is enough,” Chua told a press conference at his ministry yesterday.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng holding up cigarette packs with various messages.
“The tobacco industry must be prevented from causing so much damage, human misery and death.”

The treaty is an international legal instrument geared towards curbing the spread of tobacco and tobacco products worldwide.

A statement released revealed that between 10% and 12% of mortality in Malaysia was caused by diseases related to smoking over the past 20 years and that the overall adult smoking prevalence had increased from 21.5% to 28.8% from 1986 to 1996.

Chua said the Cabinet had decided recently that Malaysia would become a signatory to the treaty and that it would be ratified as soon as the necessary legislative requirements had been carried out.

In view of this, he said Malaysia would enact the Tobacco Control Act, which was being finalised by the Attorney-General’s Chambers, before ratifying the treaty that had already been signed by 47 countries.

However, only Norway has ratified the treaty, which required the endorsement of at least 40 nations before it could come into force.

“Once ratified by Malaysia, it would be applicable here and those affected by tobacco products could seek legal redress,” said Chua, adding that the treaty has a rider that holds the tobacco industry directly accountable for all the harm and damage caused as a result of using its products.

He said the Cabinet had also decided to create a secretariat and several national committees to oversee the way the treaty is carried out in Malaysia.

Chua said Malaysia has already taken some steps stipulated in the treaty such as making it compulsory for cigarette makers to carry rotating health warning messages with matching descriptors.

The cigarette packages would carry messages such as Cigarettes Are Heart Breakers, Cigarettes Hurt Babies and Cigarettes Leave You Breathless among others, which will be accompanied by matching pictures and illustrations.

When contacted National Cancer Council communications manager B. Raj Kumar, who heads the organisation’s anti-tobacco campaign, said Malaysia’s endorsement of the treaty and the impending legislation of the Tobacco Control Act were timely.

“Endorsing it will also protect the rights of passive smokers by allowing them to seek redress in the event they are afflicted by tobacco-induced diseases such as lung cancer because of their surroundings,” said Raj Kumar.

He said Malaysia currently lacked stringent measures and laws to protect non-smokers as well as children from tobacco smoke in public areas such as restaurants.

August 25, 2003

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New Straits Times Online :Bill on use of traditional medicines

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22: The Health Ministry is drafting a Bill that will provide guidelines on the
use of Traditional and Complementary Medicine (TCM) in the country,
minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said today.

He said the move was initiated following numerous public complaints against illegal traditional practitioners, both local and foreign, and the sale of unregistered medicines in the market.

He said the Bill would, among other things, provide for the formation of a TCM Council that will govern the practice of TCM in the coun-try, the registration of bona fide TCM practitioners, and the registration and use of quality TCM products.

“We have received thousands of complaints of unregistered traditional medicines being sold in the market and on the increasing number of illegal traditional practitioners treating people for various illnesses,” he told reporters after officiating a two-day National Homeopathy Conference at Pan Pacific Hotel here.

Chua, who said there was currently no law to regulate the use of such medicine, however, declined to disclose when the draft would be ready for tabling in Parliament.

At present, there are 3,701 practitioners registered under five traditional umbrella bodies — Society of Traditional Indian Medicine, Feder-ation of Traditional Malay Medicine of Malaysia, Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Association of Malaysia, Malaysian Council for Homeopathic Medicine and Malaysian Society for Complementary Therapies.

There are 2,221 Chinese traditional practitioners, Malays (300), Indians (84), homeopathy (687) and 409 various modalities under complementary medicines.

Chua said recent years had seen an explosion of products labelled as homeopathic or traditional.

Since 1992, the National Phar-maceutical Control Bureau had taken active steps to register and monitor all TCM products. This included analysing them for heavy metals, steroids, microbial content and adulteration with active pharmaceutical ingredients, to ensure the safety and quality of the products.

Only TCM products in pharmaceutical dosage forms are subjected to registration and to date, the bureau had registered 11,632 such products.

“We will do whatever is necessary to regulate the practice of TCM and not allow the lack of a legal instrument to be an excuse for apathy,” said Chua, adding that the Ministry was guiding TCM practitioners, through their umbrella bodies.

The Ministry, he said, also planned to establish a new TCM Division which would be responsible for the structured development of TCM and the quality and standards of their services in the country and the proposal was being discussed with the Public Service Department.

Chua said the newly-formed National Committee for Research and Development on Herbal Medicine was also into the research and development of herbal medicine.

He also said the Cabinet had also allocated RM38 million to make Malaysia a global information hub on the integration of western and traditional medicine.

The National Committee, Chua said, had also directed the Malay traditional practitioners to document whatever they do for evidence, as presently the trade is passed down by word of mouth.

“We are also encouraging local universities to offer courses and training on TCM,” he said, adding that some universities like Universiti Putra Malaysia, International Medical University, and Universiti Sains Malaysia had already introduced TCM awareness courses in their undergraduate and post-graduate medical programmes.

When told that some TCM practitioners call themselves “doctors”, Chua said it was an offence under Section 33 (1) of the Medical Act 1971.

On the recruitment of foreign doctors, Chua said the Cabinet had directed the Chief Secretary to the Government to hold talks with the relevant agencies such as the Public Services Commission and the Malaysian Medical Council to study how they could shorten the process.

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Utusan Malaysia Online – Health bits

Sarawak strives to achieve drug-free state status… In KUCHING, Assistant Minister of Housing Dr Abang Abdul Rauf Abang Zen said on Sunday that Sarawak wants to be the first state to be declared free of drug problems, ahead of the country’s 2015 target.

“We want to achieve 100 percent success and aim towards achieving zero defect,” he said at a seminar on drug prevention and education for the Kuching division Rukun Tetangga here.

“This may be a bold step forward but with commitment from the public and private sectors, God willing, we can achieve our target.

“Malaysians from all walks of life must pledge from today onwards to fight drug abuse at home, schools and other places commonly associated with drugs,” he said.

Abang Abdul Rauf said there must be ongoing awareness campaigns by community leaders, church leaders, muslim religious teachers, non-governmental organisations and professionals to combat drug abuse.

He said there was an increase of 63 drug abuse cases or 25 percent last year from only 243 in 2001.

Although Sarawak registered the lowest statistics, the government and all levels of society must not rest on their laurels in efforts to fight drug problems, he said.

The anti-drug agencies had to constantly review the approaches used to stop drugs from making their way into the state through the Sarawak and Kalimantan border and parents must monitor their children’s movements and ensure that they had the right kind of influences, he added.

KT outpatient treatment only at Health Clinic… In KUALA TERENGGANU, those seeking outpatient treatment in the city will no longer be entertained at the Kuala Terengganu Hospital (HKT) and should instead go to the District Health Clinic.

State Health director Datuk Zahari Che Dan said since April, HKT only catered for the needs of surgical patients.

All surgeries previously carried out in various departments at the hospital would be centralised in the new RM56 million centre, he told reporters after launching the “Keranamu Malaysia, Hidup Sihat Sejahtera” programme at state level here on Sunday.

Earlier in his speech, Zahari said the Terengganu people were fortunate as the government had provided them complete health facilities with six hospitals, 42 health clinics and 130 rural clinics.

“The number of health personnel has also been raised, and currently some 5,700 are serving in the state,” he said.

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