Saturday, 2 April 2011

Herbal medicines - because the government thinks you're stupid

David Colquhoun asks "Why does the MHRA refuse to label herbal products honestly?"

Basically the EU regulations state that you must have the following on the label of a herbal remedy:
"Traditional herbal medicinal product for use in [insert baseless medical claim here] exclusively based upon long-standing use."

And you also get a lovely little kitemark to show that the MHRA has approved your drug:

They might be broadly safe and manufactured to certain minimum standards but the MHRA refuse to have any requirement to mention on the label that there isn't actually any evidence that this or that herbal remedy can do what the label claims, or even to mention that the evidence shows that it doesn't work at all. And then they boast about how:
"The growth of the THR scheme means that consumers will have access to a wide choice of over-the-counter herbal medicines made to assured standards.

"The current signs are that the market will be lively and competitive. The key difference for consumers is that in future they will be in the driving seat and able to make an informed choice when they wish to use these medicines."
This government (and the last one) and the MHRA think you're stupid. They don't want you to know that these herbal drugs don't work because then you might not buy them. And that would upset their friends in the multibillion pound herbal supplement industry. Because ensuring a 'lively and competitive' market in useless drugs is more important than having a real informed choice. It's just the same story at home as selling useless dowsing rods as explosive detectors abroad.


Zeno said...


However, the herbalists are up in arms (with the usual special pleading) that they have only had eight years to get their house in order and one group are intending to take eleventh-hour legal action against the Government.

Apparently, they want the 'choice' (it's always about choice, never informed choice) of selling unregulated, unproven and potentially unsafe herbal products to their customers without interference from 'bureaucrats'.

Read here for further details.

pj said...

So what they're basically saying is that they can't even be bothered to spend some of their massive profits made from flogging useless herbs to do a few studies to show that these herbs aren't harmful and are manufactured to a minimum safety standard. Boo-fucking-hoo for them if they then can't sell them anymore.

I loved this from the link:

'Robert Verkerk PhD, Executive and Scientific Director of [the Alliance for Natural Health International]...says “A major flaw in the legalisation is that, unlike pharmaceuticals, herbal products are made from biological sources, and as such do not react in the same way that conventional pharmaceuticals do
in a laboratory environment. Trying to push these ancient traditions into a European straitjacket based around synthetic drug manufacture is like to trying to push a square peg into a round hole.”'

Well yes indeed, unlike 'conventional pharmaceuticals' these herbal products have no evidence for their use, in that sense they very much are like trying to 'push a square peg into a round hole' because medicines licensing isn't supposed to be dealing with approving drugs that have no evidence for their safety or efficacy, or indeed which have evidence that they aren't effective. Unfortunately that's the topsy turvy world we now live in!