WHO to investigate kava ban

Related tags Kava European union United kingdom

The WHO is to reevaluate the safety of the herbal kava, taken to
relieve stress and anxiety, but currently subject to a ban in
several leading markets.

The news was welcomed by campaigners who recently met with WHO members and industry stakeholders in Brussels. The kava industry has suffered significantly from the far-reaching ban, which includes most of Europe's key herbal medicine markets, such as Switzerland, Germany and France.

Last week the Welsh national assembly overruled a ban on the herb brought by the UK's Medicinces Control Agency in December last year. Other regions of the UK are expected to follow the move.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also confirmed in minutes from its first meeting of the Advisory Committee on Safety of Medicinal Products, held in Geneva in October, that it has decided to re-evaluate kava.

The Committee endorsed the recommendation to obtain data from countries where adverse reaction reports relating to kava are available, including comprehensive literature reviews. According to further reports, the WHO has involved two of their Pharmacovigilance Centres in the evaluation process, one in Europe and one in the Pacific.

It also said that the WHO Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring would help compile the available data on kava products and their safety as well as reevaluate all data thereafter. The investigation could be undertaken possibly as a PhD project in a suitable location.

The International Kava Executive Committee (IKEC) called the news a 'major success', attributing it to their August meeting with kava stakeholders in Brussels. A major report​ on the herbal that concludes it can be used safely, 'In Depth Investigation on EU Member States Market Restrictions on kava products', was presented at this meeting.

"We see this as a great chance to get a new, comprehensive evaluation of kava, which should include all the data and publications that have been published before and after kava was banned in several countries,"​ said Joerg Gruenwald, executive director of the IKEC.

The annual UK market for products containing kava is estimated to have been worth up to £7.5 million (€10.7m) in 2001.

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