It sounds like a bad April Fool’s joke, but it’s not. On the first of April next year, thousands of products associated with traditional medicine will become illegal throughout the European Union.
April 1, 2011, is the date the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) comes into force throughout Europe. Many herbal products—including those already sold safely as food supplements—will need to be registered under THMPD if they are to be made available. But registration involves a series of eligibility and technical challenges as well as prohibitive costs, so a large number of traditional medicines will be prevented from being registered. This is especially true if the medicines are made by smaller companies with low annual sales volumes—a fairly common occurrence with traditional medicines.
A related concern is that laws and regulations that are enacted in Europe often influence US policy—and a negative outcome over there is a dangerous precedent that could be adopted here at home. So preserving access in the EU is absolutely critical to our own health freedoms.
Our colleagues at the Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH-Intl), together with the European Benefyt Foundation (EBF), have established a joint working group to coordinate their response to this issue. They plan a three-pronged attack:
- Force a judicial review of THMPD as being an unsuitable vehicle for assessing traditional medicines. Not a single Ayurvedic or traditional Chinese medicine product has been registered under it. This will be expensive—please see below about how you can help with a gift.
- Change the EU food supplement regulations. The current regulations say that herbal products previously sold as food supplements are to be reclassified as medicines; a food or herb preparation is considered “novel” (and thus banned from sale) if it cannot be proved that one or more of its ingredients had been used significantly in the EU before May 1997; and health claims made by many herbal products are banned, limiting consumer choice.
- Facilitate a new regulatory framework for traditional medicinal products to replace THMPD and expand its scope. This would regulate not only over-the-counter herbal medicines, but practitioner-prescribed and pharmacy-dispensed supplements as well. The European Benefyt Foundation has been working to develop such a framework for over a year.
In order for this work to proceed, they desperately need additional funding. We invite you to read their Call to Action, but even more importantly, we ask you to send a donation in support of ANH-Intl’s efforts. Just go to this page to make your donation, and we will forward to them every penny you give.
Remember—your financial support of our European colleagues not only benefits the millions of Europeans who use natural supplements and medicines, but could make a huge difference in the way US supplement policy is shaped in the future. Please give today.