Tong Ren Tang’s mercury storm continues

Updated: 2013-05-23 15:25


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More products by Tong Ren Tang, a time-honored traditional Chinese medicine company, were found to contain excessive mercury, 21 Century Herald reported.

The ingredient of cinnabar in Tong Ren Tang’s “Niuhuangqianjinsan” and “Xiaoerzhibaowan” (both are medicines for detoxification) are 17.3 percent and 0.72 percent, far above the international standard. Also, nearly 40 kinds of Tong Ren Tang’s existing commonly used medicine with the function of easing nerves and detoxification contain cinnabar, an insider said.

In the 732 records of Tong Ren Tang’s prescriptions registered with the China Food and Drug Administration, there are 86 records of cinnabar, eight of calomel, four of mercuric oxide and nitro mercury, 46 of realgar and six of various lead containers. All the components are banned outside the Chinese mainland, a physician in Beijing wrote on his micro blog.

On May 22, Tong Ren Tang posted an article on its website saying that cinnabar is commonly used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine and was recorded in China's first pharmaceutical monograph “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic,” which dates to 2,000 years ago. In the 2010 version of “Chinese Pharmacopoeia,” cinnabar has the effect of easing nerves, improving eyesight and detoxification.

Medicines containing cinnabar are produced and processed in strict accordance with national drug standards. It’s safe for patients to take these medicines under instructions, Tong Ren Tang said.

Although Tong Ren Tang insisted that its medicines that contain cinnabar have nothing to do with excessive heavy metals, it has started to reduce cinnabar in production. “Wangshibaochisan” and “Qizhenwan” (medicines used for children’s constipation and fever), which had been most fiercely attacked, have been adjusted in components.

Cinnabar in traditional Chinese medicines has long been disputed between domestic and international academia and pharmaceutical companies.

“The toxicity of Chinese herbal medicines should be viewed from a dialectical perspective. We hope to make a balance in its special effect, toxicity and substitutability. China will have more strict control on toxic components in the medicines,” said Xu Jinbo, honorary president of Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medicine Association.

“Both Western medicines and traditional Chinese medicines have side effects, but that doesn’t mean we should discard all the drugs that contain toxic components,” Xu said.

"Hong Kong frequently initiates investigations of mercury-containing medicines, and Japan and the United States continue lifting the threshold for domestic medicines. These periodic questionings have put Chinese medicine enterprises in a predicament. There is still no good dialogue between the Western medical system and the Chinese one,” Xu added.