Seputeh member of Parliament (MP) Teresa Kok has been slammed by Malaysians on Facebook for endorsing a medicine as a "COVID-19 treatment pill"
While sharing a Nanyang Daily report, Kok said, "Finally, we can buy this well-known COVID-19 treatment pills from China in the open market in Malaysia now."
"It is no more an unapproved drug in Malaysia. Thanks to MOH (Ministry of Health)."
According to the report she cited, the medicine — Lian Hua Qing Wen — is owned by a local company called White Heron Pharmaceutical Sdn Bhd.
The Chinese daily said two variants of the medicine — capsule and granule — have been approved by MOH's National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).
A spokesman from White Heron Pharmaceutical said the medicine was approved by NPRA last month.
A check by SAYS on NPRA's website found that both tablet and powder forms of the medicine are indeed registered with the department. However, the powder variant — WHP New Lian Hua Qing Wen Granule — has been approved by the department since 18 November 2020.
As for the tablet variant, it is believed that NPRA has yet to release its latest list that includes WHP Modified Lian Hua Qing Wen Capsule as a newly approved drug, although it is currently searchable on NPRA's 'Products Search' page.
Nanyang Daily reported that the medicine was approved after removing an ingredient barred in Malaysia called ephedra
The daily said it will be available in the market in the future.
Promoting the medicine on its Facebook page, White Heron Pharmaceutical said the newly formulated Lian Hua Qing Wen is able to "detox, ventilate the lungs, relieve heatiness, eliminate phlegm, relieve cough, help fight against virus and influenza more effectively".
The pharmaceutical company did not directly mention that the medicine can be used on COVID-19 patients, but merely mentioned it is effective against "virus and influenza".
In China, Lian Hua Qing Wen is among the prominent products promoted as a COVID-19 remedy, reported BBC.
At the time of writing, Kok's post has been deleted.
Prior to that, she updated the caption of the post by including the full translation of the Nanyang Daily report.
The removal of the Facebook post comes after hundreds of netizens criticised the DAP leader for misleading the public by calling the medicine a "COVID-19 treatment pill".
Some of them, who claimed to be professionals working in the medical field, said they were disappointed by her statement.
"YB, please stop spreading fake news, this is not a treatment pill for COVID-19... As a pharmacist, I hope you retract your false statement," read a comment.
"Yb Teresa Kok, please cross-check the facts. Canada has banned this item for [the] treatment of COVID-19. It has shown no improvement in my patients in my hospital who were taking it themselves at home illegally; they admitted and needed hospitalization anyway," said another person.
One Facebook user also urged Kok to not use a blanket statement to mislead the public, while another netizen cautioned Kok to be careful with her words as aunties' and uncles' lives could be at risk with her statement fanning the flames.
In October last year, Malaysian authorities confiscated 1,200 boxes of Lian Hua Qing Wen as the product was not approved by MOH
According to a Berita Harian report at the time, Selangor health director Datuk Dr Sha'ari Ngadiman said the product was believed to have been brought in illegally from China.
The use of TCM to treat COVID-19 is a heated subject even among experts.
The subject became even more controversial as the World Health Organization (WHO) has been condemned by the international medical community for spending years endorsing China's TCM.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, WHO removed a warning on its website about the use of TCM to treat COVID-19. It went on to fuel more controversy, reported BBC.
Although Lian Hua Qing Wen has been approved in Canada since 2012, doctors there warned people to be cautious about the claims of using the medicine to treat COVID-19.
"Selling unauthorized health products or making false or misleading claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 is illegal in Canada," said Health Canada's spokesperson in an emailed statement to CBC News last month.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Cambodia's Health Minister Mam Bunheng said Lian Hua Qing Wen is "effective" in treating COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, reported Chinese state media Xinhua.
The statement reflects a similar approach in China, whereby non-life-threatening COVID-19 patients were given TCM.
The medicine is also registered in the Philippines and Indonesia. However, it is only licensed as a herbal remedy to relieve cough and fever, not a treatment for COVID-19.
Read more COVID-19 stories on SAYS: