Adam Smith

Science and Communications Officer, ANH-Intl

There’s nothing like starting a momentous year with plenty of good news, and a recent story on Nutraingredients adds to ANH’s coverage in Nature magazine to kick 2012 off with a bang!

The news that the ‘Safer Herbal Medicines Campaign’ has been rebranded as the ‘Herbal Quality Campaign’ and brought under the umbrella of the British Herbal Medicine Association (BHMA) is a significant victory – not only for ANH-Leaks, but also for the twin concepts of campaigning and transparency.

Schwabe steps back into shadows

Although the stated goals of the Herbal Quality Campaign remain, in the words of Simon Mills of the BHMA – and, lest we forget, the College of Medicine – “To exert political pressure to have more thorough enforcement of the THMPD,” Schwabe Pharma has clearly felt the need to take a back seat.  Had it not been for ANH-Leaks, we would likely have been presented with the absurd situation of a large company with multiple THMPD-registered products attempting to persuade UK Parliamentarians to crack down on their (entirely law-abiding) competitors.  All pretence that the aims of the Herbal Quality Campaign have anything to do with safety have been dropped in favour of ill-defined concerns over the ‘quality’ of herbal medicines on the UK market.

Ultimate goal unchanged

But while Mills and the BMHA shed crocodile tears over the supposedly low quality of non-THMPD-registered herbal products, they make clear that the ultimate goal of the campaign will still benefit large phytopharmaceutical companies over the rest of the sector.  Mills looks to a day when, “Products are removed from the market that do not possess THMPD registrations,” and presumably believes that the UK public will benefit from a market comprised almost exclusively of expensive, purified, mostly single-herb extracts stabilised in synthetic polymer bases of the type used in conventional pharmaceuticals.

ANH-Intl, along with significant sectors of the UK herbal sector, as well as the buying public, disagree strongly, and will continue to raise awareness of any deceptions used by the Herbal Quality Campaign.  However, there is no doubt that ANH-Leaks has already let the cat out of the bag in terms of the campaign’s actual aims, to the extent that its spokespersons are obliged to publicly admit their intentions – something that may well never have happened otherwise.  

Quality is the key to regulation

We are glad that the pro-THMPD camp has been forced to deal with the issue of quality, because this is the turf upon which a rational, fair and inclusive system of regulation must be marked out. The reasons for this are given by our executive director, Robert Verkerk PhD, at the foot of the Nutraingredients article.  Contrary to the views of the soon-to-be launched Herbal Quality Campaign, such a system will require that botanical food supplements remain on the EU market. It is also essential that specific schemes are in place for products dispensed by practitioners.

And finally, it goes without saying that ANH will be launching a counter-campaign to the Herbal Quality Campaign in the UK Parliament on 24th January….


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