British botanical group welcomes “new era” in herbal products in Europe

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

British botanical group welcomes “new era” in herbal products in Europe

Related tags Pharmacology Herb Herbalism

The British Herbal Medicine Association (BHMA) says the recently implemented European Union Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) is good for the botanical industry, although others have criticised it for working against smaller players and herbs from Asia, South America and Africa due to registration costs.

The BHMA has always backed the THMPD as it takes the view it will increase the credibility of the sector by improving product quality, standardising claims and boosting public confidence in herbal products.

“The THMPD will lead to higher standards and a more satisfactory retail market,”​ it said of the Directive that became law in 2004, but was only fully implemented in May after a seven year transition period.

It said the THMPD represented a “new era”​ for the European botanicals market after an “initial period of readjustment”.

“It will allow responsible suppliers to compete on a level playing field,”​ the group said.

Practitioner groups such as the BHMA and the German Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (BAH) have been more supportive of the regulation, while it has been fiercely criticised by others such as the Alliance for Natural Health, which has condemned it and is set to launch a legal challenge against it after mounting a fund-raising campaign.

“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,”​ ANH scientific and chief executive officer Robert Verkerk told this publication recently.

“Less familiar and less globalised traditions such as Tibetan, Korean, southern African and Amazonian traditions also fall victim.”

UK registrations

Registrations have been slow under the scheme though in Europe with the UK leading the way with more than 119 approved registrations as of today, out of 229 applications. As yet there has not been a single rejection.

The BHMA has published a book summarising the first 100 registrations which notes the companies with the most registrations are:

  • Schwabe Pharma 14
  • Diapharm 14
  • Bioforce 11
  • Bio-Health 5
  • NBTY 5
  • Swiss Caps 5

Since then Bio-Health has another two registrations and marketing and sales manager June Crisp observed: Unfortunately sales in accordance with all retail are poor but we have noticed that our customers are increasingly reassured by the THR mark of quality that the new registrations give to consumers.”

In addition to the claims potential of a product registration, the THMPD dictates that all herbal products not classified as food supplements (like many 'spice rack' herbs such as garlic and sage) or those considered medicines, must have gained THMPD registration by April 30, 2011 to remain on market but there is a further sell-through period for products already on-shelf.

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