A new law could change the face of herbal medicine in the European Union. The Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, or THMPD, states that in order for a herbal medicinal product to be licensed to be sold, there must be proof that it has been used for 30 years in the EU, or 15 years in the EU and 15 years in another part of the world. The law is set to take effect in May 2011.
The look of store shelves may be permanently changed by the THMPD. Many supplements will vanish. Even if a supplement maker knows a particular herbal product has been used for 30 years, the process of proving it can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds or Euros. Smaller herbal medicine companies may not be able to afford this price.
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has released a list of 79 herbal products that are registered for use in Britain so far. 15 of these products are various brands of valerian, and 12 are Echinacea. One third of the approved products are manufactured by large pharmaceutical companies.
Britain is sidestepping the law slightly: health-care practitioners will be the only people allowed to give consumers access to unlicensed herbal products, and they’ll do it by prescription. In order to be authorized to prescribe these herbal remedies, herbalists must register with the UK Health Professionals Council.
Even with Britain’s attempt to circumvent the THMPD, the law will still probably drive up the cost of taking certain herbal medicines: rather than being able to buy them over the counter, UK consumers will now have to make an appointment with an authorized herbalist, and purchase a prescribed drug. Some of these products and doctor’s visits may be covered by the NHS, but some may not.
The law is ostensibly designed to keep consumers safe, and limit their access to potentially harmful herbal remedies: for example, intravenous herbal medicines will not be approved under the THMPD. The law, however, does seem to favor larger companies, and is seen by some as a move to keep Big Pharma happy.
Originally published on GrannyMed