Page last updated at 22:28 GMT, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

'Chinese herbal pills gave woman cancer' court hears

Generic pills
Mrs Booth fell ill after taking pills bought at the Chinese Medical Centre

A civil servant with spots who bought pills from a Chinese herbal shop suffered cancer and kidney failure after taking them, a court has heard.

Patricia Booth took the pills, bought at the Chinese Medical Centre in Chelmsford, Essex, for over five years.

The Old Bailey heard the products had been advertised as "safe and natural".

Ying "Susan" Wu, 48, of Holland-on-Sea in Essex and Thin "Patrick" Wong, 47, of Southend deny selling, administering and marketing the drugs illegally.

The court heard Mrs Booth became ill months after she stopped taking the pills - which were later found to contain a banned substance called aristolochic acid.

[The pills] did indeed clear up her skin but turned out to have disastrous consequences. They completely destroyed her kidneys and gave her cancer
Julian Christopher, prosecuting

Mrs Booth's health steadily deteriorated and she also suffered a heart attack. She still has to go to hospital three times a week for dialysis.

Julian Christopher, prosecuting, said Mrs Booth would have to give evidence via a videolink because she was too ill to come to court.

'Disastrous consequences'

Mr Christopher said Ms Wu was working as a "Chinese doctor" at the shop, which closed in August 2003.

He said Ms Wu sold the drugs to Mrs Booth over a five-and-a-half-year period, beginning in 1997.

"[The pills] did indeed clear up her skin but turned out to have disastrous consequences. They completely destroyed her kidneys and gave her cancer," he said.

He said Mrs Booth was in her mid-40s when she began to take the pills and, apart from a bothersome acne-like condition, she was in good health at the time.

She was told by Ms Wu to take about a cap-full - 30 pills - three times a day. She would buy further bottles every 10 days or so, with the dose decreasing over time as her skin got better.

She stopped taking them in November 2002 but in February 2003, she found out she had chronic long-term kidney failure.

Mrs Booth then developed cancer three years later and has had to undergo several operations.


Mr Christopher said when Mrs Booth started taking the pills, only a registered practitioner was legally allowed to sell them. Mrs Wu was not registered.

The pills were banned in July 1999.

When officers from the Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency visited the shop in July 2003, Ms Wu told the officers although she was a qualified doctor in China, she did not have the right UK qualifications.

Ms Wu denies administering a noxious substance to Mrs Booth so as to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm, between February 1997 and November 2002.

She also faces seven counts of sale of a medicine to her otherwise than in accordance with a prescription, as well as one alleging sale of a medicine not of the quality demanded by a purchaser.

She is also charged with selling a medicine "not on a general sale list" to Mrs Booth, namely pills described as Xie Gan Wan.

Both defendants face four counts of possession of a medicinal product without a marketing authorisation, relating to bottles of pills marked Xie Gan Wan, 469 sachets marked Longdan Xieganwan and 24 cartons of Xiaoke pills.

The trial continues.

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