23 February 2011 No comments

Update on the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive

I received this email form The Finchley Clinic and there’s no need to rephrase it. You need to hear it all, and Mark Lester says it all very clearly – and make sure you see the video.

Some of you may have read articles in the newspapers last week suggesting that with regard to the continued availability of herbal remedies, the UK government has announced that your basic right to put what you want into your own body is going to be saved at the last minute. This would be great news were it not for one fundamental point which is that unfortunately it’s not true.

Andrew Lansley, the Minister for Health, did make an announcement that registered herbalists will be able to continue to practice and prescribe herbal remedies privately through statutory regulation to be introduced by 2012. The decision by the UK government simply allows the continuation of the herbalists’ exemption which has existed since 1968 that allows herbalists to prescribe unlicensed medicines to patients following one-to-one consultations.

But from May 1st 2011, manufactured herbal medicines sold online and in health food shops, will not be able to be legally sold unless they are registered under the EU’s Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive. That’s after what has been described as a ‘reasonable’ (but as yet undefined) sell-off period to allow companies such as ours to sell off existing stock. So far a simply pathetic number of herbs have been registered because of the exorbitant cost and extremely complicated procedures required. We beleive this is being instigated primarily at the behest of, and after much lobbying by big pharma, but being masqueraded as public ‘protection’, when it is nothing of the kind. At the moment 19 single herbs have been registered, though due to duplication of a few of the same herbs being licensed by different companies, the Medicines and Health Care Regulatory Agency are somewhat misleadingly claiming  there has been “strong interest” and a figure of over 60 herbs. This which would still be absolutely pathetic even if it was accurate, which is not really the case. The EU commission and the government even have the temerity to use terms such referring to the “simplified scheme” to register herbal medicine in their written replies, when there is nothing remotely simple or fair about the regulations.

A note on the cost of licensed herbs:

It appears that due to the very high cost of licensing (around £40,000 – £80,000 for single herbs and a lot more for combinations), those herbal remedies that do survive are going to be damn expensive!

The bottom line is that….

If someone is prepared to pay to see a practitioner (something a lot of people won’t be able to afford every time they want to buy a herbal remedy or perhaps even just a single herb), they may continue to be prescribed herbs that they will no longer be able to buy online, from health food stores and so on. However even that will only be possible if that herb is still in sufficient demand for producers to continue to grow it, which in many cases will probably no longer be the case. Ordinary consumers will be faced with massively reduced choice, and retailers will be severely impacted. Although no official figures are available, it seems that the overwelming majority of the currently available herbs (which are classed as “medicinal”) in the UK and throughout the EU will no longer be available. (Note: Culinary herbs will not require licensing).

Sadly the government announcement was not the basic protection of customer choice, human rights and plain fairness that I and the natural health industry were looking for.

What you can do…

Our advice to members of the public who want to continue to be able to buy herbal remedies without forking out a hundred quid or so to see a herbalist first, is to write to Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health, House Of Commons, London SE1 1AA and tell him that your herbal remedies are important to you, how they have helped you, pointing out their remarkable overall safety record compared with pharmaceutical medicines, that the ban which comes in on April 30th whereby you will not be able to buy most herbs any more without making an appointment with a registered herbalist simply does not work for you, that your health may suffer as a result, and ask the government to announce plans to genuinely defy the EU nonsense (as opposed to tinkering with it, which appears to have been the case with the announcment last week) in the interests of British people and the British economy.

Posted by Lise

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