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Headlines > Regulation

UK diabetes herb bust symptomatic of wider malaise?

By Shane Starling , 08-Jul-2013
Last updated on 08-Jul-2013 at 15:07 GMT

A herbal product making diabetes claims in the UK has drawn the attention of the medicines regulator there, but the policing of herbal supplement products needs further examination, says the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH).

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warned people off a herb called Vedagrin it said was an unlicensed herbal medicine under the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Product Directive (THMPD) that has operated since May, 2011.

The product was making claims like, say goodbye to your diabetes medication forever.

People with diabetes should ignore these advertising claims and continue to take their prescribed medicine,” said MHRA head of herbal policy, Richard Woodfield.

While the patient information leaflet for this unlicensed medicine tells people to seek medical advice before stopping their insulin intake, the advertising claims for this product break advertising regulations for medicines.”

Supplements v medicines

More broadly, while accepting that individual products and entitities may transgress the law, the ANH’s executive and scientific director, Dr Robert Verkerk, PhD, told us herbal food supplements were under an ever-growing threat.

“The MHRA is working through a long list of complaints about herbal medicines selling as food supplements that it has received mainly from companies who have registered herbs under the THMPD,” Dr Verkerk said.

“Among these are products that vary considerably in quality, effectiveness and claim.”

“The problem is that EU medicines law is so powerful it gives the regulator the power to classify almost anything as an unlicensed medicine. Some very good herbal food supplements are being delisted as we speak, and these are both safe and highly effective, often considerably more so than their equivalents registered as THRs.”

“Effectiveness, it seems, is their main sin, and the reason given for classifying them as medicines. Perhaps anti-inflammatory diets will be next on the MHRA hit list.”

Of the Vedgarin case, Libby Dowling, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK said:

Anyone with diabetes should never stop taking their prescribed medication, as this can be very dangerous.”

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