No new Artemisia annua adverse reactions advised in past seven months

28 November 2018

The makers of the Arthrem joint support product have noted that it has been more than seven months since the Ministry of Health has been notified of any adverse reactions in relation to products containing the herb Artemisia annua.

Promisia’s comments follow the announcement by the Director General of Health (27 November 2018), which renewed a public warning following more reports of liver harm from taking products containing Artemisia annua extract.  Only some of the instances of liver harm associated with the ingredient have been attributed to Arthrem.

Rene de Wit, Promisia's Chief Executive says the latest advisory notice could give the mistaken impression that there have been ongoing reports of adverse reactions to Artemisia annua since Medsafe issued its last alert, on 15 February 2018.

“Seven of the 11 newly reported adverse reactions since February relate to instances that happened before the February alert, but were reported afterwards.

Only four reported adverse reactions occurred after the February alert and it was not clear if these were linked to Arthrem, because higher-dose competitor products are still available on the market.  In some instances, it was not proven that products containing Artemisia annua (as opposed to another dietary supplement or medication that the person was also taking) caused the problem.

No adverse reactions attributed to Artemisia annua have been reported since April 2018.

Mr de Wit went on to note that, when taken as directed, Arthrem is safe and effective. 

"Safety is – and has always been - our top priority.  Although one instance of liver harm is one instance too many, it is important to understand that adverse liver reactions caused by Artemisia annua are a very rare event,” he says.

Consumers can be assured that it is perfectly safe to keep taking Arthrem provided the person is not suffering adverse effects or has any contraindicated condition/s. However, Arthrem is not suitable for:

  • People who have elevated liver enzymes, liver disease or liver cancer
  • Anyone who is pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding 
  • People who are taking antiretroviral drugs for HIV
  • Anyone who is taking drugs that are known to prolong QT interval
  •  Children

It is important that Arthrem is taken strictly as directed. Anyone experiencing any adverse reactions should stop taking it immediately and consult with their doctor.  Adverse reactions may include (but are not limited to):

  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • stomach pain
  • pale stools
  • dark urine
  • itching all-over
  • the whites of the eyes have turned yellow or the skin is yellow (jaundice)

Anyone with questions or concerns can call Arthrem's toll-free 24 x 7 helpline (0800 995 034).