The British Herbal Medicines Association (BHMA)-backed QHC is campaigning to beef up policing of the European Union Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD), a regulation it says is being flouted by non-registered and potentially unsafe products since it came into play in April 2011.
The ANH says the THMPD is not designed to cover all kinds of herbal products – including Chinese and Indian herbal medicinal products.
The group’s scientific and executive director, Dr Robert Verkerk said in a statement: “The EU herbal directive is an optional scheme that only applies to those products that meet its restrictive requirements. Many are not, and will never be, eligible to the THMPD scheme without a major change to the rules.”
“The BHMA must accept that one size does not fit all when it comes to regulating herbal products, and that there are several different regulatory regimes that allow legal sale of herbal products in the EU, including food supplement legislation.”
THMPD and safety
The ANH has questioned one of the stated aims of the THMPD – to improve the quality and safety of products, something the QHC emphasised last year in its previous incarnation as the Safer Herbal Medicines Campaign.
“The BHMA has not produced any substantive evidence of any health concerns posed by botanical food supplements, other than referencing St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) food supplements,” Dr Verkerk said.
“The risk of Hypericum possibly interfering with the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill is well known, and appropriate warnings are usually clearly stated on food supplement labels.”
Aside from any potential safety issues, the QHC would like to see the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), do more policing of non-registered products because it says those products gain an economic advantage.
QHC and BHMA chief Simon Mills, said: “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.”
But the MHRA reluctance is being blamed on the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which has delivered verdicts about garlic and other herbs that have blurred the line between herbal medicines and food supplements.