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Singapore Bans Kava-Kava, Fearing The Product Could Cause Liver Damage

Jul 25, 2002 | AP Singapore's Health Authority announced a ban Thursday on the kava-kava plant and its extracts, citing European studies that link it to liver toxicity.

Kava-kava is a pepper plant traditionally used to prepare a ceremonial drink in the South Pacific. It is promoted to relieve anxiety, stress and insomnia.

German health officials said last month they had reports of 40 cases of liver damage in their country that may be linked to medicines containing kava-kava or its ingredient kavain. Three of the patients died and six needed liver transplants.

In Singapore, there have been no reports of adverse effects linked to kava-kava but the ban has been adopted as a precautionary measure following news of the German illnesses, the Health Sciences Authority said in a news release.

Last month, Germany announced it would revoke the license of any medicines containing extracts of the kava-kava plant.

U.S. and Canadian health officials have also warned consumers against kava-kava and sales of the plant have been halted in Switzerland and France and suspended in Britain.

The safety of over-the-counter health supplements has taken center stage in Singapore since two women suffered liver failure earlier this year — possibly as a result of taking Chinese-made diet pills that were found to contain fenfluramine, which is banned under Singapore's Poison's Act, and nicotinamide, a Vitamin B derivative.

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