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Licensing rule for herbal remedies

17th January 2011

New licensing rules could see some alternative remedies banned in UK shops.

An EU directive could mean that hundreds of traditional and imported remedies that are currently seen in health food shops and herbalists will be affected.

This will mean that only long-established and scientifically safe herbal medicines will be able to be sold over the counter in these shops.

The aim is to protect people from damaging side effects that can arise from taking unsuitable medicines.

Herbal medicines such as Cascara Bark or Horny Goat Weed look likely to be affected from the beginning of May when the directive comes into force. From then on all such products must be licensed.

Independent health shops fear the directive, which was passed in 2004, favours the large European manufacturers.

Selwyn Soe, who runs The Herbal Factory, a contract manufacturer of herbal remedies in Croydon, south London, said: “Unfortunately it looks as if we will have to close down because of this legislation.”

He said that while it would cost thousands of pounds for a licence, he would not be licensed to make the product exclusively.

But Richard Woodfield of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said the ruling would ensure products met assured standards.

“Although the standards are challenging, they are achievable and manageable,” he said.

However, Professor David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, said that the changes were of limited value because the rules did not require makers to show any evidence of whether the newly licensed products were effective.

 

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