Hidden amongst the hysteria of the royal wedding, the EU Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products came into force. Actually, it came into force in 2005 but there has been a ‘transitional period’ which ran out at the end of April. The Directive requires traditional, over-the-counter herbal remedies to be made to assured standards of safety and quality and for regulations to be standardised across Europe. This means that manufacturers will have to prove their products have been made to strict standards and contain a consistent and clearly marked dose*.This sounds like common sense to me but herbal practitioners and manufacturers are up in arms saying it will drive them out of business and ‘force’ patients to take Big Pharma products.
I was very sad to see the organisation Avaaz jumping on the band wagon. Their petition, which over 600,000 people have already signed, states:
As concerned EU citizens, we call on the Commission to amend the THMPD Directive, suspending the draconian measures against herbal medicines and removing all barriers to traditional remedies with a long history of use inside and outside Europe. We further call on our governments to refuse to comply with this Directive until it is amended. We have a right to choose among all remedies and medicines that can keep ourselves and our families healthy.
Avaaz, and everyone else I suspect, is blowing this completely out of proportion. Why should such products not be made to appropriate standards of quality control? This is a pro-consumer law that brings the herbal remedy peddlers in line with other industries. No one is signing petitions to stop corn flakes from being manufactured safely, so why should they be any different? It’s not even clear to me if they have to show any efficacy! Now that would be a challenge.
I think the thing that annoys me most of all about the herbal/supplement/vitamin industry is the myth they perpetuate that they are the underdog, fighting against Big Pharma. News flash! Big Herba is a billion dollar industry too, they just don’t have to spend as much of their billions on R&D, quality control or efficacy trials.
So did all unapproved natural remedies disappear from the shelves over the weekend? What do you think! Apparently, unapproved products will be allowed to stay on the shelves until their expiry date. I can’t help but wonder if there might have been some last minute reprinting of labels…
*What this means for homeopathic products is anyones guess…
PS I urge everyone to contact Avaaz and ask them to rethink their campaign.