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The end of appeasement

MagazineJune 2002 (Vol. 13 Issue 3)The end of appeasement

Hard on the heels of the European Directive on Vitamin Supplements comes the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, which would amount to a ban of all but the most well-used herbs

Hard on the heels of the European Directive on Vitamin Supplements comes the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, which would amount to a ban of all but the most well-used herbs.


At the moment, every member state of the EU controls herbal products in a different way. This new directive would make it mandatory that herbs be 'registered'. To become registered, the manufacturer of such a product needs to show evidence that the product has been in use for at least 15 years within an EU country as well as an additional 15 years outside the EU. The important criterion is that its use adds up to at least 30 years.


Furthermore, manufacturers would have to register a product by providing a host of details, including contraindications and interactions with other medications - the type of information usually supplied with a drug. In the view of the National Association of Health Stores, these requirements are beyond the financial capabilities of all but the largest companies. The only products likely to survive are those already licensed - that is, those produced by German pharmaceutical companies.


The net effect is that nothing new would ever come onto the market. Any new, promising herbal remedy or anything that has had 1000 years of safe, effective folk use in Africa, say, or in the South Pacific, would be forever banned throughout Europe.


Yet a third change in the law is on the table. This is a proposal to amend the Pharmaceutical Directive so as to allow the Medicines Control Agency sweeping powers, in effect, to control any healthcare product it chooses as a 'drug'. Although this law has not yet been passed, the MCA has already ordered a number of vitamin manufacturers to stop producing a number of harmless vitamin/herbal preparations.


According to John Stirling of BioCare, a few weeks ago, his company along with Solgar and a number of other vitamin makers were asked to withdraw a few longstanding products from the healthfood shelves simply because they contain herbs. In the case of BioCare, the product in question contained red clover, a herb with a long track record of safety.


There are even moves afoot to include flower essences in the definition of herbs. After that, it won't be long before homoeopathic preparations and essential oils are classed as drugs.


It is not hyperbole to characterise this as a war between the vested interests of the most profitable industry in the world, and the likes of you and me and anyone else who desires to maintain freedom in healthcare.


Like any political war, this is being fought with propaganda, advancement by stealth, enemy infiltration and even spying. If you don't believe that, consider a recent report in The Sunday Times that the largest clinic in Britain specialising in single vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella recently discovered a bugging device implanted in its ceiling.


Two months ago, the clinic had a burglary, but the only swag that was of interest to these particular thieves were computer disks containing thousands of records of the patients who'd frequented the clinic. After the burglary, the staff noticed that some of the light fittings had been tampered with. The bugging devices would have allowed listening in from a house or vehicle in the neighbourhood. Later, a clinic supplier was sent a batch of Urabe mumps vaccine, which is banned because of an unacceptably high risk of meningitis. Had the potentially dangerous strain been sent on to the clinic and given to patients, it might well have been used as a lever to close them down.


These broadside attacks on alternative medicine mean that we can no longer afford to take the Chamberlain approach of appeasement and talk of 'integrating' alternative with orthodox medicine. The pharmaceutical industry has just bombed Pearl Harbor and is busy gobbling up Europe. Nothing but a hard political line in favour of full choice in healthcare against drug-based medicine is necessary to win, and nothing but a wholesale commitment by all of us will resist the current blitz.


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