Fri, Oct 06, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Wonder drug might return

‘PANACEA’:Soon to be century-old brand was in family medical bags for much of the 20th century, with the pharmacy being called on to remake it

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

An advertising sign for the drug “Gobudama” or Wufenchu, is pictured on Tuesday outside the Fusheng Tang pharmacy in Taitung County’s Guanshan Township.

Photo: CNA

Local residents are calling on the Fusheng Tang pharmacy in Taitung County’s Guanshan Township (關山) to resume production of what was deemed the “panacea drug” of its time, especially with the drug being only two years short of becoming a century-old brand.

Shen Wan-chuang (沈萬樁), the third-generation owner of the pharmacy, said the drug, called “Gobudama” or Wufenchu (五分珠), was originally created by his grandfather Lien Hua-feng (連華封) and sold by the family in 1919.

The pharmacy had been known as Yisheng Tang under his grandfather, Shen said, adding that it was his father’s decision to rename it after his grandfather relocated the business to Wuchang Street in Taipei.

At the time, there were 10 different “versions” of the powdered drug to treat various symptoms — such as headaches, toothaches, sore throats, and joint pains — with separate kinds for adults and children, Shen said.

The drug was considered very effective and had even been exported to Japan, Shen said, adding that every family would have had at least some type of Wufenchu in the family “medical bag” hanging on the living room wall, along with other necessities such as cold medicine and a topical antiseptic.

Taitung County Council Deputy Speaker Chen Hung-tsung (陳宏宗) said that he was very sad to hear that the medicine was no longer in production and hoped the Shen family could be persuaded to restart the production lines.

“It was the first kind of medicine that mother would take out of the medicine bag for whatever ailments or illness,” Chen said, adding that many older people in the region were still greatly reliant on the drug.

When contacted by the Central News Agency for an interview, Shen took reporters on a tour of the pharmacy and the former location where Wufenchu was produced.

Pointing to Fusheng Tang, Shen said that the entire wooden structure would be a century old in another two years.

With Yisheng Tang taking the powder off its shelves last year, it meant that the powder’s history in Taiwan had come to an end, Shen said.

Yisheng Tang staff in Taipei confirmed that production of the drug has been discontinued, adding that they plan to assess whether to restart the production lines.

The Guanshan Script, compiled by the National Taiwan University Building and Planning Foundation, said that Wufenchu did not see initial success; it was due to Lien and his sons’ hard work that the powder eventually became a common item in family medical bags.

The powder is one of the rare local medical products that has been exported abroad, it says.

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