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Herbal medicine directive to help consumers

18th October 2005

A new EU directive governing the sale of herbal medicines is important in the interests of consumer safety, according to a spokesperson from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHPRA).

Roy Alder told BBC Radio Four's 'You and Yours' programme that under the new Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive people taking these types of medicines will be assured about the quality, ingredients contained in and strength of the products.

The directive means by 2011 traditional herbal products such as Echinacea and St John's Wort will have to be tested and proven safe before they can go on sale.

This means elderly people who may take herbal medicines for a number of different ailments will be assured to get information about possible side effects or interactions with pharmaceutical prescriptions.

Mr Alder continued: "We are going to make a lot of effort over the coming weeks, months and years to try and ensure that we retain the degree of consumer choice that there is at the moment while at the same time improving patient safety."

He said the MHPRA will request companies send evidence that a particular product has been used safely for over 30 years for the treatment of a particular ailment, and the companies will also need to provide details of manufacture and quality testing for it their herbal medicine to make it to shelves.