HQC and British Herbal Medicine Association (BHMA) chief Simon Mills told NutraIngredients a report was in preparation that would be sent to the Department of Health, the Health Ministry and other MPs, to “bring maximum leverage onto the DoH, other bureaucrats and MPs by week's end.”
“Political pressure will make a difference. We are introducing parliamentarians to their constituent concerns.”
Other actions would include letters to parliamentarians and other influencers from individuals and potentially from the HQC itself, as well as an invitation to the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – the body HQC believes should be doing more to enforce the regulations – to discuss its policing policies and intentions going forward.
Last Tuesday’s Westminster ceremony was attended by four parliamentarians:
- Andrew Percy, Conservative MP for Brigg & Goole
- David Tredinnick, Conservative MP for Bosworth
- Oliver Colville, Conservative MP for Plymouth South and Devonport
- Lord Colwyn (House of Lords)
The campaign, formerly known as the Safer Herbal Medicines Campaign, is concerned too many herbal products are on-market without EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) registrations.
In attendance at Westminster was professor Theo Raynor, from the Pharmacy Practice at the University of Leeds and director of Luto Research, who said:
“Like licensed medicines, herbal products can have side effects and people need to be clear that a product is safe for them to take,” he said.
“Consumers should look out for the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) mark, the only way to guarantee that the products contain clear and up-to-date safety information. They should also tell their doctors and pharmacists that they are taking the products, so that they can be sure they are suitable for them.”
But THMPD critic the Alliance for Natural Health said the campaign was “misguided”.
“The BHMA’s new campaign is misguided on two counts. Firstly, it misrepresents the aims and scope of the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) scheme, which is a registration process designed specifically for manufactured herbal medicines intended for unsupervised use by consumers. It is not mandatory and there are other legal routes by which herbal products can reach the market; one of which is as herbal food supplements,” said executive and scientific director, Robert Verkerk, PhD.
“The BHMA’s key gripe seems to be over products containing St John’s wort or black cohosh. There has been a long history of these herbs being sold both as medicinal products and as food supplements. As long as medicinal claims are not made, and the dosage of active ingredients is not excessive, it’s difficult to see on what legal basis the UK government would be able to force a ban on the food supplement variants.”
“The only effect of a crackdown on herbal food supplements would be to remove competing products from the market, and it seems to us that the BHMA campaign is driven more by an interest in removing perceived competition than it is by a genuine concern over consumer safety."
Joining the four MPs were about 30 academics and industry representatives including Victor Perfitt MBE, managing director of UK supplements firm, Bio Health; Professor Elizabeth Williamson, from University of Reading Pharmacy Department; Michael Dixon OBE, chair of the National Health Service (NHS) Alliance and Dick Middleton, BHMA director and technical director at German pharma and botanical giant, Schwabe.
Mills added in a statement: “If the Government fails to act, the public will be unable to distinguish herbal supplements from registered herbal medicines that have been independently vetted for quality and safety.”
“Herbal medicines that are ideal for recommendation by health professionals and others as reliable self care options for many everyday complaints may be lost to cheap substitutes of uncertain quality. It is grossly unfair to those responsible companies who were encouraged by the MHRA to invest heavily in complying with the new Directive which it itself championed.”