Editor’s Note: CNN’s Cathy Bussewitz has the latest on Saturday’s accident in Norway. Click here for video and more information.
Concerns are growing over the safety of a drug used in the practice of a Danish osteosarcoma patient’s care.
The patient, named as Bernt E. — who has been in a coma since the accident — has reportedly been given the herbal supplement aduhelm, also known as “Asian garinifarn.”
The brand name for the drug in question is Bergamang Gmaba, but some internet searches have turned up other details about the company that makes the product.
Aduhelm is sold in China under the brand name Purex, and despite being made in China, it is believed to be manufactured by a manufacturer in Laos.
In December 2017, a man in Laos was reportedly given aduhelm in the name of Botanics so he could be prescribed some of the plant’s ingredients for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension, while sleeping pills had reportedly stopped working, the U.K.’s The Guardian reported.
Some people who took the herb for lung diseases have died from what they believe was botanicals, according to Karen Courtemanche, a chemist and herbal nutritionist. In 2016, Courtemanche published research in the journal Open Pharmacology about two potentially fatal botanical reactions she had found after studying the ingredients’ records from people suffering from some rare and fatal diseases.
In its report about the Laos incident, the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency warned that “yarnies” — products resembling plant extracts but based on fake, flimsier, mineralized forms — are being sold in Britain, which are known as botanical “liquids.” Aduhelm is not listed as a botanical, but one that contains botanical extracts, so it is not illegal to buy the drug.
The warning against mixing the herbal compound with other drugs is particularly important, Courtemanche said, since it can be hard to distinguish between the two.
“I do not expect that anything dangerous has happened,” said Preserving Medicine editor Maria Kirzari at the time of the Laos incident. “But people should be careful, especially when making herbal remedies.”
Alfred de Guzman, a Latin American research consultant, authored a book called “Myths, Lies and Forgotten Treatments” that details his encounters with botanical-related illnesses. His friend was given a typhoid treatment containing aduhelm in 2012, he told Courtemanche. After the adverse reaction, the store owner said he would never again sell the product, but he was unable to reissue the list of ingredients.
Aduhelm may produce side effects
The current anesthesiologist at Aarhus University Hospital, which is treating the patient named as Bernt E., said they had been able to identify certain molecules in the drug that may be producing side effects.
“The accident rate in these patients is extremely high and so if there is a bit of irritation after a trauma (life-threatening trauma) then that is something that our major thinking is that this might make people more sensitive,” said Mikael Ostlund, the anesthesiologist.
However, he said they were still investigating and that he could not yet say if the patient is at greater risk.
“That is something we hope to clarify in the next weeks and months,” he said.
Ostlund said they had the option of giving the drug on an empty stomach, or giving it first thing in the morning and then having the patient come in later in the day for more of the same. Another option would be to have the patient swallow the drug in the morning and then pass it around in their food a few hours later.
The Aarhus University Hospital is collaborating with doctors in Denmark who have treated a Danish patient who died in 2016 after overdosing on a diuretic that had been recommended as an alternative to the drug, Nercel. The man, now known as “Lørgården,” had been originally recommended the diuretic because a competitor had withdrawn the product.
The symptoms of being on an empty stomach are similar to people on another kind of drug, according to Ostlund. However, he added that while the patient was on a diuretic, he had not overdosed — but he did come down with a complaint of vomiting.