Nearly 50 percent of probiotic products available in the domestic market do not meet quality standards, experts say.
Dr Pham Hung Van from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy's probiotics department said a recent testing of products in the domestic market showed probiotic content was lower than the amount stated on the label.
Some of the products contain probiotic strains that could cause vomiting and diarrhoea, Van said, adding that there were even some that do not include any probiotic ferment.
Early this month the Pharmaceutical Management Department ordered the recall of two probiotic products because they failed to meet quality standards – the Biolac powder and the same drug in 500g capsule form.
Currently, the use of probiotic products is very popular in Vietnam, many drugstore sales clerks said.
Doctor usually prescribe them for patients with digestive disorder, indigestion or those who have to consume a lot of antibiotics, they said.
People also buy these products out of habit, whenever they feel uncomfortable or have a digestive disorder, without waiting for a doctor to prescribe them, the clerks said.
Word of mouth advertising was another factor increasing the popularity of probiotic products, they added.
Many local and foreign medicine producers were racing to produce probiotic products in different forms including tablets, ampoules and powder since they've realised that probiotics are easy to make and do not have to follow strict quality standards, industry experts say.
Pharmacies in Ho Chi Minh City sell a wide range of probiotics including Biosubtyl DL, Bidisubtilis, Subtyl and Biovita at varying prices.
Probiotics have for long been considered OTC (over the counter) medicine, so they can be bought freely by customers without a prescription.
This has led to arbitrary use that can be harmful to people, doctors warn.
Dr Le Kim Sang, head of Trung Vuong Emergency Hospital's digestive diseases department, said there were different kinds of probiotics in the market and people should know how to use them in the most effective way.
People should not use probiotics over a long period because it might cause serious digestive disorders, Sang said.
It is most advisable to use the drugs based on doctor's advice and with a prescription, he added.
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