Health Canada has issued a warning concerning the Chinese medicine Bejai Bowyantan, urging consumers not to use it to treat children or infants.
The health authorities said the product contains a substance with similar toxic properties to another substance known to cause serious adverse reactions and death in children.
Bejai Bowyantan, which is gnomically described on the packet as 'a secret formula protecting baby pills', is an imported Chinese medicine used to treat babies with flu, fever, stomach aches, diarrhoea, night crying and inability to sleep.
The product is labelled as containing 5 per cent borneolum syntheticum or borneol. Borneol is known to have a similar toxicity profile to camphor, a substance known to be extremely toxic, particularly in children.
Health Canada said it had assessed the use of Bejai Bowyantan in young children and infants and determined there was a reasonable chance that exposure to the product could cause a serious adverse reaction or even death, although it stressed that no incidents of adverse reactions to the product had been reported in Canada as yet.
Bejai Bowyantan comes in vials containing 0.9 grams of a brown powder, and as well as borneol it contains products as diverse as pearl, birds nest and amber. Instructions for use recommend the powder be mixed with boiled water and consumed three times daily. The instructions also recommend half a vial be used for babies under one month, one vial for babies over one month, and two to three vials for children three to nine years old.
Health Canada said it was working to identify all importers of this product in order to facilitate its removal from the market. The department will also issue a customs alert to prevent further shipments of this product from entering Canada.
The warning was distributed to the Chinese Chamber of Herbal Medicines of Canada, associations of Chinese importers and Ayurvedic medicine, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association of Canada, Provincial and Territorial Ministries of Health, Poison Control Centres and other relevant associations.