Wednesday, February 16, 2011

GOOD NEWS FOR HERBAL MEDICINE IN THE UK

There are good news from England in the fight to preserve the freedom to prescribe herbal remedies. As a background, herbal practitioners have been fighting to obtain a derogation from the upcoming European Directive so that they would be able to prescribe unlicensed remedies. This derogation revolved around them being statutorily registered: we have now obtained this.

The UK Secretary of State for Health has made an announcement today about regulation of herbal medicine practitioners. The issue of whether or not practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be statutorily regulated has been debated since the House of Lords Select Committee report on Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2000.

The Health Professions Council (HPC) has now been asked to establish a statutory register for practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines. The proposal is, following creation of this register, to make use of a derogation in European medicines legislation (Article 5 (1) of Directive 2001/83/EC) that allows national arrangements to permit those designated as "authorized healthcare professionals" to commission unlicensed medicines to meet the special needs of their patients.

Accordingly, a scheme would be created enabling registered practitioners to commission unlicensed herbal medicines to meet the special needs of their individual patients. Safeguards for the public would be provided by a combination of professional regulation and linked medicines regulation, for example, to safeguard manufacturing standards.

If practitioner regulation is in place for the purposes of creating an Article 5(1) scheme this also opens the way to reform Section 12 (1) of the Medicines Act 1968. Under Section 12 (1), practitioners may prepare unlicensed herbal medicines on their own premises for use following consultation with individual patients. It is intended to move to the position that only registered practitioners would be able to operate under Section 12 (1) after regulation of practitioners is in place.

A formal consultation exercise will take place on specific legislative proposals for establishing the register and proposed reforms of medicines legislation later in 2001.

I think we all owe the European Herbal Practitioners Alliance (EHPA) and its chairman Michael McIntyre a huge debt of gratitude. In particular, Michael McIntyre has been fighting tirelessly for the past 10 years in defence of herbal medicine in England and Europe.

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