Renewed Warning of Liver Harm

Privileged statement

27 November 2018

The Director General of Health is renewing a public warning following more reports of serious liver harm from taking Arthrem and other products containing Artemisia annua extract. 

An initial alert in February this year was a result of 14 reports of liver harm linked to the use of Arthrem, a natural product available for sale and other similar products. 

Since then there have been an additional 11 reports, some showing serious harm. Some of these new reports may have been from people taking these products earlier, but they may also have been from people continuing the take the product. 

Artemisia annua extract (also known as Sweet Wormwood, Sweet Annie or Qing hao) is marketed as a natural dietary supplement for maintaining and supporting joint health and mobility. Several products containing Artemisia annua extract are available in New Zealand. 

Anyone taking these products, should be aware of the risk of harm linked to the use of these products. 

The majority of cases reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) are linked to the use of Arthrem soft gel capsules (Promisia). Two cases also report use of GO Arthri-Remedy 1-A-Day soft gel capsules (GO Healthy). 

GO Arthri-Remedy 1-A-Day was withdrawn after publication of the previous alert. 

There remain other products in New Zealand that contain Artemesia annua extract. 

Medsafe recommends anyone taking these products to be alert for nausea (feeling sick), stomach pain, pale stools, dark urine, itching all-over, yellow eyes or skin. Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical advice. 

From the information provided to CARM, as soon as the symptoms developed, all of the patients stopped taking the product containing Artemisia annua extract. 

At the time the reports were made, most patients had either already recovered from the harm caused to their livers, or were improving.

Additional information can be found on the Medsafe website.

 

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