Doctors treating liver patients say decline is quick, permanent - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Doctors treating liver patients say decline is quick, permanent

Posted: Updated:
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Doctors at The Queen's Medical Center spoke for the first time about the dietary supplement scare that has injured 32 people.

"It totally destroys all the liver cells," says Dr. Linda Wong, who has performed transplants on two of the patients.  She says the kidneys can also shut down and then cause the brain to swell. 

Dr. Wong is screening three more patients who may also need transplants. 

All 32 patients were taking diet supplements, mostly OxyElite Pro.   A popular weight loss supplement that has now been banned from Hawai'i stores.

Thursday, inspectors from the Hawai'i Department of Health visited all the stores that sold the product.   They wanted to make sure OxyElite Pro was not on the shelves anymore and any remaining bottles are embargoed.

"It's in the back and not for sale, we want to make sure it stays there," says Lance Wong, a supervisor for the department's inspectors.

Dr. Naoky Tsai says the patients all thought the product was safe because it passed FDA standards.

"Supplements don't have the same process, (or) scrutiny as drugs," says Dr. Tsai.

But what surprised Dr. Marina Roytman the most while interviewing the patients, many weren't  taking OxyElite Pro to lose weight.

"They're telling me they like it, and it gives them more energy... medical students who are telling me they're taking it because it helps them study," says Dr. Roytman. 

The medical team does expect even more people will require treatment or hospitalization after taking OxyElite Pro.

Typically Hawai'i sees about two, maybe three cases of liver failure a year.  The Liver Center at Queen's has already treated seven patients in the last few weeks.

And this supplement scare is also taxing the Legacy of Life Hawai'i organization.  Felicia Wells-Williams says the two transplanted livers had to be flown in.

"When someone is in a critical need and there's not a local donor, we have to go (nationwide) to find a donor organ for the recipient," says Wells-Williams.

She is worried about being able to find livers for the three people currently being screened for transplants. 

The team hopes the number of patients reporting liver injuries will start to go down now that the product is off the Hawai'i market.

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.