Legal action against EU’s herbal medicines ban 'imminent'

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Herbal medicines, European union

Short shelf life: EU legislation could ban tradtional Chinese medicines such as those made from gingkobiloba.
Short shelf life: EU legislation could ban tradtional Chinese medicines such as those made from gingkobiloba.
A legal challenge to new EU legislation, implemented on May 1, which could ban thousands of traditional herbal medicines is “imminent,” a spokesperson for the UK-based Alliance for Natural Health told NutraIngredients.

After donations of about £100,000, the alliance is making final preparations to its legal case for a judicial review of the EU’s Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. After an initial hearing in London, the case will be referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The new legislation requires that traditional herbal medicinal products, many of which have been used in Europe for decades, must be licensed or prescribed by a registered herbal practitioner in order to comply with a directive passed in 2004.

Marketing authorisation

In the UK over-the-counter herbal medicine products require either a Traditional Herbal Medicines Registration (THR) or a full marketing authorisation. To be eligible for a licence, products must have been on the market for 30 years, including 15 within the EU.

So far, about 100 herbal products have been registered under the THR scheme, which is run by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The alliance fears the law will have the effect of banning thousands of herbal medicines and drive consumers on line to buy unregulated products.

The main losers are those products associated with world's longest, most established and most evolved and holistic systems of healthcare, notably Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicines​,” according to a Robert Verkerk, the alliance’s executive and scientific director. “Less familiar and less globalised traditions such as Tibetan, Korean, southern African and Amazonian traditions also fall victim​.”

Only about 200 herbal products are thought to qualify for use under the new legislation. Most are products derived from alcoholic extracts of single herbs that are common to the European phyto-pharmaceutical tradition, claims the alliance.

Despite the implementation of the legislation on May 1, existing herbal medicines stocked before April 30 this year can still be sold until the expiry date on the label. That may extend their shelf life for up to three years.

Food supplement

The interpretation of the legislation seems to differ around Europe. The UK and Germany take the view that any food supplement that has any pharmacologically active herbal ingredient is deemed a medicine and should be removed from the market unless registered, report the alliance.

But other EU countries, such as the Netherlands and the Czech Republic appear to regard traditional Chinese medicines and Ayurvedic products as food supplements.

Meanwhile, MHRA has advised caution when buying herbal medicines over the internet.

There is an international trade in poor-quality, unregulated and unlicensed herbal products,” according to a MHRA statement. Some of these have been found to contain banned pharmaceutical ingredients or heavy metals which are poisonous.

“Products may also contain harmful herbs that are not permitted in the UK, and you should be aware that unlicensed herbal medicines manufactured outside the UK may not be subject to any form of effective regulation​.”

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4 comments

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Action against Herbal Ban

Posted by Harry,

This is one time to win to save the health and lives of many disadvantaged in EU countries. Lose and it becomes Law.

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You can help

Posted by antonio brandao,

Whoever wants to act against this can at least sign this petition

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/eu_herbal_medicine_ban/?rc=fb&pv=0

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Herbalists still keeping herbal medicine alive

Posted by Nick Hudis,

Many herbal products have disappeared from the shelves already. But professional herbalists can still prescribed unlicensed herbs in individual consultations. We have a duty to maintain access to herbs for the general public

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