Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Politics and the Regulation of Herbal Medicine

Recently there has been much discussion about new legislation which is being proposed to regulate the herbal medicine and supplements industry in the UK.

Opinions on the issue are divided and there are many aspects to consider, but it is my personal belief that as regulation is increased, our choices are greatly reduced and, whilst it may make healthcare options safer, it also encourages a culture where individuals are no longer able to take responsibility for their own health and lifestyle.

With similar feelings on these issues, my mother Tanya recently sent an e-mail asking about policies on herbal medicine to her local (York area) MEP's for Labour, Lib Dem and Green parties and has allowed me to post the responses she has received so far.

The copies of the correspondence below gives us some idea of where each party is heading on the herbal medicine legislation front:

E-mail sent by Tanya Jane-Patmore to Yorkshire & Humber EU reps for Labour, Lib Dem and Green:

Before the elections, can you let me know your view on plant (herbal) medicine. EU is aiming to regulate and thus remove many current choices from us. Britain has a good track record on herbal medicine, with strong self regulation going back a very long time. This may be different from other European countries. But our ability to choose how we get help when unwell may be threatened by this. In my view it is an example of over regulation.

There are many other issues that are important and I care about. But for now knowing whether you support or will vote against this may make the difference as to whether you get my vote or not.

Tanya Jane-Patmore

So far she has received two responses, from Labour and Green:

Response from Labour's Richard Corbett:
Dear Tanya,

Thank you for your email. What EU countries are trying to do is to see whether we can find a common set of rules for the common market. If that can be done on acceptable terms, it would have the advantage of avoiding confusion, conflicts and companies playing off one country's rules against another. However the devil is in the detail and the key is to find acceptable terms.

Best wishes,

Richard Corbett MEP
Labour Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire & Humber
In contrast, the response from the Green's Eamonn Ward is below and includes a couple of their policies on the matter:

Thank you for your enquiry.

With just 48 hours to go and a real push to win in this region, we are now struggling for available resources to answer queries in detail. I have found the following policies in this area and also attach our manifesto [not included here] for this election.

I would have liked to spend more time researching this but hope that this does answer most of your questions.

With Regards,

Eamonn Ward
Campaign Manager Yorkshire & the Humber Green Party European Election Campaign
Green Policies as included in e-mail:

Natural medicines
HE317 When assessing the degree of control required over the availability of medicines, a balance must be reached between the right of the individual to freedom of choice, and the duty of society to protect the individual from the consequences of unwise choices. We are concerned to protect users from unanticipated adverse effects of novel pharmaceutical compounds, some of which may not be evident until the drug has been in use for many years. The Green Party proposes the founding of a regulatory agency with responsibility for natural medicines, including nutritional supplements, medicinal plants and herbal remedies, essential oils and homeopathic remedies. This agency should be founded on the principles of:

1.Freedom of information and full labelling of ingredients.
2.High standards of safety in production methods.
3.No animal testing.
4.Strong encouragement towards organic production.
5.A ban on GM ingredients.

However when the drugs have been in use for many generations, as with many natural medicines, the need for statutory control is diminished. Measures will therefore be taken to protect the availability of established herbal and homeopathic remedies, subject to basic safeguards.

Synthetic Pharmaceuticals
HE318 Novel compounds will not be introduced into general use unless they can be shown to have significant advantages over existing drugs. Limited list prescribing will be extended across the full range of pharmaceuticals. The direct advertising of prescription only medicines to the medical profession will cease. Information to the medical profession will be the responsibility of medical schools and independent authorities with no vested interest in companies which manufacture or market pharmaceuticals.

HE319 The Green Party recognises the huge profits made by the drug companies out of the NHS. This is often through a form of cartel pricing, and we do not believe it is right that the National Health Service as a public health service should have to pay unfair prices. Therefore we will set up an independent NHS Pharmaceutical Body with power to set the price of drugs provided to the NHS. The Body will be composed of doctors, healthcare professionals, economists, and a legally trained chairperson, which will look at the cost of research and development in drugs and their manufacture, and receive evidence from chemists, the pharmaceutical companies, and other countries' health services. The Body will then decide what is a fair price for a drug which is to be provided to the NHS by the manufacturer, and that will be the price which the NHS will pay for the drug.

Sadly this is all very short notice before the elections, but hopefully of interest nonetheless.

Finally, I must apologise for my tardiness in writing new posts. I have spent the last two weeks in York on a dog-sitting mission, but have also been juggling what feels like vast quantities of work which must be done before I head off to America in 3 weeks time for the Smithsonian festival. I've never known life so busy, but hopefully I'll be back on track and posting regularly within the next couple of months.


JOE TODD said...

Seems to me we have politics in everything and that can be unfortunate

John said...

We choose politicians and its our responsibility to choose the best one. If everyone try the world can change.