Schwabe pulls back as herbal medicines quality campaign launches at Westminster

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: United kingdom, European union, Medicine

Schwabe pulls back
The UK Safer Herbal Medicines Campaign (SHMC) that was conceived last year as an industry initiative to push for greater enforcement of the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD), will be revamped in a public launch at Westminster this month.

The SHMC will become the Herbal Quality Campaign (HQC) to emphasise the “positive value of quality”, ​and move squarely under the umbrella of the British Herbal Medicine Association (BHMA), the group's chief, Simon Mills said today.

“We don’t want to emphasise safety too much because it has negative connotations so we are focusing on quality,” ​he said ​of the January 24 Westminster event with stakeholders and UK parliamentarians. 

“But although the name is changed we will continue along the same lines which is to exert political pressure to have more thorough enforcement of the THMPD so that products are removed from the market that do not possess THMPD registrations.”

The BHMA has a membership of about 30 companies - some large like Schwabe, others smaller.

Peter Berry Ottoway, the technical director for the UK Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), agreed the THMPD needed stricter enforcement, and said individual CRN members may support the HQC, if not the group itself, which was yet to decide its position on the matter.

Previously the campaign was administered by the UK division of German herbal medicines giant, Scwhabe, before the BHMA took over.

It saw letters sent to UK parliamentarians expressing concern about the way the THMPD is being policed (or not) by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and prompted anti-THMPD group, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) to attack long-time herbal academic, Reading University’s Professor Elizabeth Williamson, for being a stooge of the campaign.

She had written a letter to UK Secretary for Health, Andrew Lansley, expressing her view that most medicinal herbs should be regulated under the THMPD and not as food supplements.

She denied the accusation that she was part of the campaign, as did Schwabe and Mills at the time.

The heart of the issue

Of the new effort, ANH executive and scientific director, Robert Verkerk, PhD, said: “We can only hope that the BHMA’s campaign will be conducted with integrity, and that the emphasis on quality encourages interesting debate. Quality is, of course, at the heart of the issue, given that it is products containing whole-plant material and a full spectrum of bioactive substances that have particular challenges accessing the existing scheme.”

“A product containing a specified amount of a highly extracted biomarker or active constituent, stabilised in a synthetic polymer base, may represent high quality in some people's eyes - but such a view is far from universal.”

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