Docs alarmed on bad effects of Indo “health supplement”
Lalaine Jimenea (The Freeman) - October 19, 2014 - 12:00am

ORMOC CITY, Philippines –  Health practitioners in this city have been alarmed at the rising cases of patients suffering from adverse effects of an Indonesian "health supplement" that comes in a form of a coffee drink, which was the subject of a "public health warning" from the Food and Drug Administration last January.

A check with the website shows the agency's Advisory No. 2014-006, issued last January 15, warned the public against the use of unregistered food supplement Sehat Badan, a food supplement being sold online and peddled by street vendors in Cagayan de Oro City, among other places in the country.

After its ban, however, the coffee drink continues to sell online, where Ormoc patients claimed they sourced it from.

Over the last two months, at least three physicians, all specialists, reported seeing patients who looked "edematous" (nanghupong), all of who said they have been drinking Sehat Badan for several weeks. These patients claimed they felt better after taking the coffee, unlike before when they would always feel tired and experienced body pains.

Doctor Rhodette Arevalo, an internist and cardiologist, said at least eight patients said they drank the banned coffee supplement. She knows of at least two other physicians who had the same patients.

Almost all of these patients looked bloated and edematous, prompting Arevalo to suspect that, aside from the ibuprofen, diclofenac sodium and paracetamol that the FDA found it contained, the coffee could also be laced with steroids.

Long-term steroid use may cause the patient to have a round, moon-faced appearance and a "buffalo hump," which is at the back of the shoulder that develops when fat gathers behind the neck.

Arevalo, president of the Ormoc City Medical Society, said she wrote FDA to conduct more tests into the coffee product, to see if it has steroids also. She has also reported the matter to Philippine Medical Association president, Dr. Ma. Minerva Calimag, who in turn said she would join the call to FDA as well.

The FDA, in its January advisory, said: "As advertised online, Sehat Badan is [a] herbal drink that 'promotes and enhance general well-being and treat various diseases' such as asthma, urinary stones, allergy, impotence, rheumatism, toothache and ulcer. These claims are not approved by the FDA as the subject product is not registered with this Office."

Last July, after monitoring and product sampling, the FDA found that the "coffee" tested positive of diclofenac sodium, ibuprofen and paracetamol, which Arevalo said are all anti-inflammatory and analgesic or pain killers.

Sehat Badan drinkers might feel better after drinking the coffee because these drugs could lessen the inflammation of their joints and provide pain relief, especially for those with gouts and arthritis, said Arevalo. However, instead of curing the ailments, the supplement might instead do further damage to the health, she added.

Irresponsible and unregulated or excessive use of diclofenac sodium and ibuprofen are also known to cause stomach ulcers, which could lead to intestinal or gastrointestinal bleeding, Arevalo said, although she wondered why almost all the consumers or patients had the characteristic moon-face and buffalo hump, which are manifestation of long-term steroid use.

These conditions prompted Arevalo to write the FDA and asked for a conduct of more tests. She also appealed to the public not to patronize "health supplements" without scientific studies to support their use.


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