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Choose only those registered with the Ministry of Health to avoid adverse effects

A HEALTH supplement is any product that is used to supplement a diet and to maintain as well as improve health functions in the human body.

A health supplement contains various substances such as vitamins, minerals, plants and animals. However, the ingredients used in health supplements must not contain any items that are listed as “controlled substances” by the Ministry of Health (MOH) as these are prohibited.

Health supplements may contain a single active ingredient such as Ascorbic acid (better known as vitamin C) or a combination of active ingredients such as B complex supplements (Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, etc.)

Health supplements are available in a number of formulations such as tablets, capsules, powders and liquids. It is important to note that while a number of formulations do exist for health supplements, it cannot be manufactured into formulations such as injections or eye drops.

SUPPLEMENTS IN MALAYSIA

Established in 1978, the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) under the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) is the only agency to regulate the registration, licensing, surveillance and quality control as well as Good Manufacturing Practice of supplements in Malaysia.

Acting as the secretariat for the Drug Control Authority (DCA), NPRA is part of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Regulatory Control of Pharmaceuticals.

Staying true to its objective, NPRA places a lot of effort into monitoring all health supplements in the market to ensure their safety and quality. Malaysian consumers are considered fortunate as many countries put little emphasis on monitoring health supplements as compared to Malaysia.

Since 1998, all health supplements that are sold in Malaysia are required to be registered and approved by MOH. Every approval is only valid for a period of five years, after which renewal of the registration status must be made.

Check before you consume. Picture: Designed by whatwolf / Freepik.
Check before you consume. Picture: Designed by whatwolf / Freepik.

In accordance with the Control of Drug and Cosmetics Regulation 1984 and Drug registration Guidance Document (DRGD) by NPRA, random sampling of all health supplements in the market will be conducted from time to time during the five year registration validity of the supplements.

This is also known as “post-marketing surveillance” and the products taken during this process will be analysed by the Centre of Quality Control of NPRA.

The samples obtained from post-market surveillance will be subjected to a variety of assessments which include but are not limited to identification tests, product composition tests and dissolution tests. In addition, laboratory tests to facilitate the identification of prohibited substances, microbial contamination and heavy metals are also conducted by certified personnel at the centre. Such thorough analyses are essential to ensure that health products registered with MOH are of quality and safe for consumption.

Heavy metal contamination usually originates from water sources and can have a pronounced effect on plants and animals. Heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic are toxic to the human body and can cause irreversible damage to the kidney, liver and nervous system.

Samples obtained from post-market surveillance will be subjected to a variety of assessments. Picture: Designed by Freepik.
Samples obtained from post-market surveillance will be subjected to a variety of assessments. Picture: Designed by Freepik.

CONSUMER RESPONSIBILITY

Hence, in order to ensure that MOH’s objectives pertaining to the provision of safe and quality health supplements are achieved, consumers need to play their part by choosing health supplements that are registered with MOH.

Every health supplement registered with MOH has two key features. The first key feature is the registration number (known as the MAL registration number) that starts with the letters MAL followed by eight digits ending with the letter N (ex: MAL 12345678 N). The letter “N” at the end of the MAL registration number indicates the type of product, which in this case stands for “supplements”.

The second key feature of registered health supplements is the presence of a “MOH Hologram” sticker on the packaging. This hologram sticker is considered a safety feature for all MOH registered health products as it is highly sophisticated and cannot be replicated.

If there are any inquiries regarding health supplements and medicines, please call the National Pharmacy Call Centre (NPCC) at the toll-free line 1800-88-6722 during weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

*Article prepared by Ahmad Dhiyauddeen Abdul Shukor, pharmacist, Ministry Of Health Malaysia.

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