With the new year comes a new sense of desperation among campaigners working to amend the Traditional Herbal Medicine Products Directive which comes into force on 30th April this year and which will effectively illegalise hundreds of medicinal herbs used in food supplements and in traditional non-European medicines such as Ayurveda and Chineses medicine. To quote the Alliance for Natural Health:
This directive requires that all herbal preparations must be put through the same kind of procedure as pharmaceuticals. It makes no difference whether a herb has been in common, safe use for thousands of years. The costs for this are far higher than most manufacturers, other than Big Pharma, can bear, with estimates ranging from £80,000 to £120,000 per herb, and with each herb of a compound having to be treated separately.
After 30th April, only herbal medicines that have been registered under the Traditional Herbal Medicine Products Directive will be available EU-wide. For a wide range of herbal products, especially those from non-European traditions such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, the requirements of the scheme are either impossible to meet or are prohibitively expensive. In many cases, both constraints apply so the result is that virtually no herbal medicines from these traditions have been registered. These products will effectively be banned after April 2011. The ban will also effect medicinal herbs in food supplements, which are used by many thousands of people across Europe to help maintain their health.
Whether or not you use herbal medicines yourself, we ask you to support the campaigns as we believe that this directive is highly discriminatory and an infringement of our human right to care for our own wellbeing – orchestrated by pharmaceutical companies who would rather do it for us!
This is not the first time I have blogged on this subject – back in September I suggested that, if you were concerned, you should write to your MEP – and did myself – to a number of them. I did get a couple of relatively positive responses but Gaia Health say that responses have been disappointing to say the least. Typical responses show little understanding of the issues at stake (“But no one wants to take your right to herbs away. The Directive merely simplifies the registration process.” Which completely fails to grasp the difference between herbs and pharmaceutical drugs.) However they do suggest that you keep up the barrage. The article on their site on the directive gives links to MEP contact details and a suggested letter.