New UK herbals committee to work on THMPD

Related tags European union Uk

The UK's medicines regulator is setting up a new herbal medicines
advisory committee to provide it with expert advice on herbal
medicines in anticipation of the forthcomin European traditional
medicinal herbal products directive.

The committee will look at both unlicensed medicines and those registered from October 2005 onwards under the new EU Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicines.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it will discuss the remit and responsibilities of the new committee during 2005.

Membership is expected to be made up of scientific experts, as well as those with knowledge of the main herbal traditions present in the UK and lay members. It is thought to be the first of the EU member states to introduce a specialist group for this purpose.

Penny Viner, chairwoman of the Herbal Forum, which liaises on behalf of herbal associations in the UK with the MHRA, said: "We are pleased that the THMPD will get this direct attention from MHRA. It is not yet clear how it will really help the national situation, but if it can focus on the particular problems of the UK it will be really useful."

Some of the big issues expected to cause concern as the directive is implemented include registration fees, product claims and the number of herbs allowed in combination products.

UK consumers spend more than any other Europeans on herbal supplements each year, around £126 million (€178m) a year according to one estimate from Mintel analysts.

The MHRA has also been given extra funding worth £900,000 to go towards regulating practitioners of complementary healthcare, such as homeopathy, aromatherapy and reflexology.

The Department of Health recently consulted on proposals to regulate acupuncture and herbal medicine practitioners and it will publish its findings in early 2005. However, other practitioners of complementary healthcare will not be covered by the new plans.

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