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Chinese medicine Natrii Sulfas not to be confused with chemical Sodium Nitrite

  • 2004.05.03

The Department of Health (DH) today (May 3) reminded the Chinese medicine trade not to confuse the Chinese medicine Natrii Sulfas with the chemical Sodium Nitrite.

The reminder comes in the wake of DH's investigations into a case of suspected Chinese medicine poisoning reported by the Hospital Authority. The patient was given the chemical Sodium Nitrite instead of the Chinese medicine of mineral origin known as Natrii Sulfas in the prescription. The main chemical component of Natrii Sulfas is sodium sulfate (Na2SO4). Upon tracing of the source, the erroneous substitution was at the wholesale level. The patient has already recovered and there is no further case found.

The department had contacted 20 retailers of the wholesaler and asked them stop using this batch of minerals. The wholesaler was also asked to recall the minerals concerned, a department spokesman said.

Natrii Sulfas (Na2SO4) is a mineral Chinese medicine which is used as a laxative, for clearing heat and decreasing oedema. Sodium Nitrite is a chemical product which is not supposed to be used as a Chinese medicine. Consumption of highly purified Sodium Nitrite will suppress the normal oxygen carrying and releasing capacities of haemoglobin in the blood and hence resulting in lack of oxygen use by the body tissue. The chief presenting symptoms of poisoning include pallor, weakness, palpitation, dizziness and shortness of breath.

The spokesman reminded the Chinese medicine traders not to confuse the Chinese medicine Natrii Sulfas with the chemical Sodium Nitrite. Chinese medicine practitioners are also reminded to ensure the correct identification of the Chinese medicine Natrii Sulfas and the chemical Sodium Nitrite when prescribing to their patients. Any suspected Chinese medicine poisoning cases should be reported to DH as soon as possible to facilitate prompt investigation and follow up actions by DH.

Members of the public should consult their Chinese medicine practitioners and follow their advice before taking Chinese medicine.

Reprinted from : HKSAR Government web page :