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OCPHM Bulletin: March, 2016

Continuing Prevarication over SR for Herbalists

On February 2nd 2016 a deputation of those in favour of the Statutory Regulation of herbal medicine attended a meeting with George Freeman, the Undersecretary of State for Life Sciences. The deputation comprised Michael Dixon (Chair of the College of Medicine); Michael McIntyre (Chair of the EHTPA); Emma Farrant (RCHM President); and Simon Mills (BHMA board member and Chair of ESCOP).

Participants expressing views against Statutory Regulation (SR) were: David Colquhoun; Don Mei; Adam Smith (Master Herbalists); Lord Taverne; David Tredinnick MP; Professor David Walker on speakerphone. Officials present were George Freeman, the Minister; Mr Nixon DH Leeds i/c regulatory affairs; a MHRA representative in charge of policy; Matthew Williams (David Treddinick's PA). Also participating on the speakerphone in favour of SR was Laura Stannard, President of NIMH.

During the meeting it was made clear that the Government is yet to make an announcement about whether to support Statutory Regulation of herbal medicine. Although the 'Walker Report' was published a year ago, the Government has not yet commented on the recommendations of that report and is seemingly still undecided about whether or not the statutory regulation should be extended to the herbal sector. The Minister said that the Government was minded to deregulate wherever possible except in the case of medicine.

Given the lack of time allocated to the meeting and the large number of invitees to the meeting who opposed our SR, it is fair to say that it went quite well.

The pro-SR participants made all of the points in favour of SR that have been made in a House of Lords' Select Committee Report and in two subsequent Pittilo Reports and were also outlined in our official response to the Government to the 'Walker Report'. These arguments in favour of SR were met with predictable rejections, including from David Walker himself, citing lack of evidence for herbal medicine as the reason not to grant SR. Of course we argued against this most strongly and made the point that providing data about evidence had never been part of the agreed terms and conditions of the Herbal Regulatory Working Group, that the large body of evidence we had provided at very short notice had been completely overlooked and that several Cochrane reviews were included in the 'Walker Report', two of which were not even on herbal medicine. We mentioned that the head of Cochrane had said that using the Cochrane reviews was not the way to establish whether a profession should be statutorily regulated and that Statutory Regulation is not a badge of evidence but a means by which the public could access high quality herbal treatment.

We also pointed out that, working within the voluntary sector, we are trying to improve the quality and safety of herbal supply but that the sector is huge and that we cannot possibly manage the entirety. This particularly seemed to get the Minister's attention, especially when it was suggested to him that the Government would be culpable in any future herbal health crises arising from a non-regulated sector. I pointed out that the Government could not say that it hadn't been warned about potential problems.

The pro-SR group also noted educational standards have slipped since the prospect of SR has looked more remote with the launch of a number of weekend courses on herbal medicine and that patients are turning to unregulated internet suppliers because the Government has failed to make provision for a full range of herbal supplies.

George Freeman seemed genuinely interested in our arguments and took copious notes. He appeared to be more engaged with the issues than previous ministers. However, there will be a period of purdah 28 days before the vote on 23rd June 2016 on whether the UK should leave the EU. That means that with no discussion on these issues after 26th May, we are unlikely to hear any news before the autumn. Of course we will keep you informed of any developments that do occur.

Emma Farrant (RCHM President)

The Psychoactive Substances Bill

During 2015, the UK Government determined to pass a Psychoactive Substances Bill (PSB) and the EHTPA recognised that should this be passed into law as drafted, this would effectively cancel the statute under which UK herbal practitioners practise (within The Human Medicines Regulations 2012). Michael McIntyre wrote to Lord Bates who was in charge of the bill's progress and to the Home Office. After a number of representations from the EHTPA, Lord Bates specifically exempted herbal practice from the remit of the PSB, giving this assurance in a Debate in the House of Lords so that it is recorded in Hansard, the official record of Parliament.

Michael McIntyre (Chair of the European Herbal & Traditional Medicine
Practitioners Association - EHTPA)



Nov 2017: Urgent need for progress on Statutory Regulation

March 2016: Continuing Prevarication over SR for Herbalists

April 2015: New Government Report on Herbal Medicine a Travesty

31st March 2015: Anglo-Saxon remedy kills superbug MRSA
(external link)

1st Feb 2014: The Government backslides again...

19th Jan 2014: Prince Charles makes plea on alternative medicine
(external link)

OCPHM Conference - articles to appear in Caduceus

9th November 2013: OCPHM Conference 'The Vital Contribution of Herbal Medicine' took place

9th July 2013: Minister makes statement on the Future of Herbal Medicine

10th July 2013: Michael McIntyre addresses OCPHM

24th April 2013: Demonstration and Parliamentary Lobby at Westminster