EU directory on herbal medicines – it is not all bad news

You may already know about the EU’s attempt to remove the rights from European citizens to choose how to deal with their health matters by denying access to herbal remedies amongst others. All details can be found on ‘GoPetition’ (http://media.causes.com/ribbon/1002638) where you will also have the option of signing the petition against the EU directive (The Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive)
 
There is also a ‘Cause’ on Facebook with over 88,000 members connected to the petition, with facilities to invite more people to sign and spread the information (it’s amazing how few people know about this!).  It is on  http://www.causes.com/causes/529778-medicinal-herbs-will-disappear-in-eu-and-we-are-the-only-ones-who-can-stop-this?m=d71e5307 (if you’re on Facebook, you can invite everybody in your network to join and sign)
 
Apart from the petitions (there are a few, I’m told), it is very important to support the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH).  They are the ‘official’ organisation fighting EU this directive in court.  They are not just campaigning against the herbal ‘ban’ but also the whole  ‘codex alimentarius’. 
 
Currently they need £90,000 for the next round of court challenges and they only have £73,682 so far. (donations can be made on the home page). So, please spread the word so that more people will be aware of this attempt to limit our freedom to choose.
 
The good news

HOWEVER, things are not as gloomy as they seem (good strategy from those with an vested interest on the ban as gloom brings about hopelessness so people stop trying).
 
Apart from the ANC  court challenges, there is a possibility that the Lisbon Treaty offers a way round to prevent the ban. A Lisbon Treaty-led broadening of the rights of individuals and corporations to act against European Union law could permit generic, article 13 health claim challenges, even though they, “are not addressed to individuals”, according to an EU food law specialist.  (http://www.nutraingredients.com/Regulation/Lisbon-Treaty-could-permit-EU-health-claim-challenges)

I post all the information on my Facebook page and Twitter so, if you or anyone interested join my network, you will be able to get any updates on this issue and drug-free health in general. (I’m on http://www.facebook.com/PauloQuadros  and http://twitter.com/#!/pauloquadros )
 
Although the EU legislation should affect Britain, there are signs that the UK government is uneasy about the directive and is taking measures to circumvent what is effectively a ban on herbal remedies and the destruction of ancient healing systems such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine.
 
In 2010, the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) was asked by The Secretary of State for Health to register practitioners supplying herbal medicines to members of the public in England and Wales. More to come later.
(The CNHC is a Government-sponsored, voluntary registration body for complementary healthcare practitioners, and its key function is to provide access to a list of practitioners that have been assessed as meeting national standards of competence and practice).
 
You may have recently learned the news that Britain has passed measures to defy the EU Directive.

The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that consumers will be able to get continued access to the medicines under plans to register all practitioners in the UK who supply them (hence the CNHC registration of herbalists in 2010).
 
Andrew Lansley said that “This approach will give practitioners and consumers continuing access to herbal medicines. . . . It will do this by allowing us to use a derogation in the European legislation to set up a UK scheme to permit and regulate the supply, via practitioners, of unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines to meet individual patient needs.” But I’m sure that he will face a barrage of accusations from people related to ‘Big Pharma’ and will need public support in order to allow herbal remedies to be sold in the UK.  The written ministerial document can be found on http://www.nimh.org.uk/wp-content/titkosuploads/2011/02/Written-ministerial-statement-on-SR1.pdf
 
Not that he is all good for CAM as he is banning herbal manufacturers of organic products to say so on the label.  The MHRA (Medical Health Regulatory Authority) say that manufacturers cannot call the product "organic",  cannot show the Soil Association logo on the outside of the packaging and are have even banning companies like the ‘Organic Herbal Medicines’ from using company names in the branding. (apparently the MHRA says that "the use of the word organic is promotional" and can only be used in small print or footnotes on labels for licensed herbal medicines. But that’s something else.
 
On the other hand, The BMJ reports that Switzerland have just announced that they will fund complementary therapies (including phytotherapy) for 6 years to assess benefits (on their equivalent of the NHS). Although Switzerland is not in the EU this should have repercussions on the EU directive as they have many treaties with European countries which may affect herbal remedies trade. You can find the BMJ article on http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d819.short?etoc
 
Apparently, The European Union relaxed its norms of 15-year usage criteria under the Herbal Medicinal Product Directive that posed technical barriers to Indian exporters of herbal products (according to a communication by the Asia-Pacific Traditional Medicine and Herbal Technology Network).

A European Union delegation and Indian health authorities, Dr Konstantin Keller, chairman of the committee on Herbal Medicinal Products of the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) made it clear that producers of Ayurvedic herbal medicines could apply for registration of their products in Europe, even if they had not been in use for 15 years in the European Union.  As I said, this was in 2007 but I’m pretty sure that they will be making representations against the EU ‘herbs legislation’.
 
I haven’t heard any official Scottish voices against the EU directive yet – this is where I live. I would really like to know what the Scottish government’s position is on this issue and think that Scots who are interested in preserving their freedom of choice should prompt the government to detail their views in this respect.  Elections are just around the corner and it is a good time to do this. My gut feeling is that the Scottish Government is also against the ‘ban’ and curtailment of freedom.
 
The main thing is for all to realise that the directive does not have to happen and not to let hopelessness set in.  There is much to fight for yet.  To quote Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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