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Herbal Eczema Creams Found to Illegally Contain Unlabeled Amounts of Steroids

BIRMINGHAM, England--Twenty of 24 creams used to treat eczema in children were found to illegally contain unlabeled amounts of corticosteroids, according to British researchers at Birmingham Childrens Hospital.

The creams had been used to treat 19 child subjects whose average age was 3.82 years; researchers analyzed the products for corticosteroid levels using high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). All children were patients at the pediatric dermatology clinic at Birmingham Childrens Hospital; the creams were submitted for analyzation by parents after reporting they helped improve eczema symptoms in their children. Researchers discovered seven creams contained the synthetic corticosteroid clobetasol propionate (5 labeled Wau Wa Cream--herbal cream for the treatment of eczema, and 2 labeled Muijiza cream--contains extract of Wau Wa root); 13 of the 17 unlabeled or unnamed herbal creams contained corticosteroids. All parents believed the creams were herbal, free from steroids, and safe to use on their children, according to the researchers. Topical corticosteroids are important in the management of childhood eczema and when used appropriately, are safe, the researchers wrote. However, improper use of topical steroids can cause harmful damage, including irreversible skin atrophy (especially on the face), and the spread of eczema, causing the condition to worsen upon withdrawal and stunting childrens growth, according to researchers. The creams were obtained from different sources, including Indian and Pakistani herbalists in surrounding areas, mail order and family or friends overseas (Pakistan and Tanzania). The study was published in the Dec. issue of Archives of Disease in Childhood (88, 12:1056-7, 2003) (www.adc.bmjjournals.com).

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