21st November 2013 – The medicines regulator has announced that all manufactured herbal medicines will have to be authorised before they can be sold in the UK.
After the end of April 2014, retailers will no longer be able to sell unlicensed herbal medicines that are not registered under the Traditional Herbal Registration, or THR, scheme.
Until now, old stock of unregistered products has been able to be sold.
THR registration doesn’t mean herbal products have been proved to be effective, but it does mean they meet safety and quality standards. They also have to be sold with patient information about how the product should be used and any warnings.
Registered products can be identified by the THR logo and a THR number.
In a statement, Dr Linda Anderson from the MHRA’s Licensing Division says: “Natural doesn’t always mean safe and some unlicensed herbal products can be harmful and some may have serious side effects.
“It is now nearly 10 years since the implementation of the European Directive on herbal medicines. Companies have had this time to bring products up to appropriate standards and apply for a THR registration. “
Consultations with herbalists
The THR scheme does not cover face-to-face consultations with herbalists and practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. The Department of Health is working on plans for them to allow them to continue their trade providing they join a register.
In a statement, a Department for Health Spokesperson says: “The regulation of herbalists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners has been a matter of debate for over 10 years. In February 2011 we announced our intention to regulate these practitioners, and since that time we have been working through the issues involved, including with other UK governments.
“As a result of the complexity of the outstanding issues, a working group is being established to consider matters relating to patient protection when using unlicensed manufactured herbal products, increasing the use of herbal product licensing to minimise risk to consumers, and to consider how best to ensure these products do not cause harm to consumers.
“We must make sure that whatever approach is taken addresses any potential risks to consumers as well as the needs of practitioners.”//