THE STATUTORY REGULATION (SR) OF PRACTITIONERS OF TRADITIONAL HERBAL MEDICINE AND CHANGES TO MEDICINE'S BILL.
The Government wish to further regulate Herbalists by bringing them under state control, protecting both the function and title of a Herbalist. Alongside this regulation they wish to change the Herbal Medicine laws again to prevent anyone, other than a state regulated herbalist (or possibly other health professional), from prescribing herbs. This, coupled with a previous change to our herbal medicine laws, will take Herbal Medicine away from the people, with state regulated Herbalists and pharmaceutical companies claiming Herbal Medicine as their own.
The reasons given for state control of Herbalists are to ensure the public’s safety and in the EU, fair competition. The Government claims to regulate only where there is a proven risk, yet several requests to demonstrate the ‘risk’ that Herbalists pose have not resulted in any information being forthcoming. Indeed, it has been claimed that this proof is not available. However, there is plenty of evidence about the risk of modern regulated medical practice and regulated pharmaceutical drugs.
The majority of people have lost faith in the Government’s ability to act in an efficient, trustworthy and caring fashion. The overall impression of most people, is a government- created society, where economics and targets take precedence over morals, ethics, community and wellbeing. How can we trust our Government with our Ancient Indigenous Tradition, our health, our wellbeing and our environment?
I am a qualified Independent Herbalist who, alongside many others, opposes the current regulatory proposals. I trained with The School of Phytotherapy, over 10 years ago, to Honours degree level, and I left the National Institute of Medical Herbalists a few years ago due to their support for Statutory Regulation. I hope to be able to continue to practise Herbal Medicine in the true and respected manner of our predecessors, which has been safe and effective for countless generations. It is my belief that the current proposals are unacceptable and will do nothing to protect the public from what is already a safe medical model, only create a bureaucratic paper exercise costing considerable sums of money, while destroying the Traditional Medicine of the British Isles and Europe.
In summary, these are the problems that I foresee will result from Statutory Regulation:
1. There is no evidence that statutory regulation of health professionals ensures public safety. In fact there is a growing evidence base suggesting that the contrary is in fact true.
2. Herbal Medicine and Herbalists were and are, contrary to popular comment, regulated in many ways, mainly to ensure we are safe, honest and law abiding in our practises. Stories from the press, government and MHRA about problems with Herbal Medicine are blamed on lack of regulation, yet most, if not all the cases broke current laws. Regulation clearly does not stop those determined to break the law, as we so often see in our society.
3. Herbal Medicines will be increasingly made by modern, highly processed methods, often by the big national and multinational pharmaceutical companies, who will be able to fund the new licensing laws, unlike the small cottage industries which currently manufacture Herbal products. These preparations manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies are often non traditional, therefore do not have any traditional evidence of safety and are biased towards making profits, rather than peoples well being. The consequences of making Herbal preparations in this way and with profit as the main drive are likely to be dire for both the public and our environment. The Traditional Herbal Medicines Directive has already been put into UK law and is set to remove a number of valuable Herbal Medicines from our shelves in 2011 due to huge costs and arguably, unnecessary criteria. At a time when our environment needs serious consideration and respect, simple, traditional, indigenous Herbal Medicines can satisfy many needs effectively, having a much smaller footprint on the environment than other health treatments. We must not forsake our simple, locally grown, native, traditional Herbal preparations for fashionable “Wonder Herbs” that are highly processed, licensed at a huge cost and then sold for extortionate amounts. All Herbs are wonderful and effective in their simplest form when used wisely.
4. Statutory Regulation will increase the cost to the State Regulated Herbalist and therefore increase the cost to the patient.
5. Many experienced, highly qualified Herbalists are likely to refuse to become statutory regulated on moral grounds, either leading to a reduction in available experienced Herbalists or Herbalists being forced to work illegally.
6. A number of good, experienced Herbalists may be denied statutory regulation, not having undergone a course deemed acceptable to the regulatory body. Modern degree courses being currently offered by many universities do not necessarily equate with the best training, many becoming increasingly dominated by modern, mainstream medicine and science at the expense of our Traditional Knowledge.
7. An increased influence from modern, mainstream science and medicine, affecting our training, our practise and our development, has caused a reduction in real choice and diversity. This situation is likely to create an unnecessary complexity and fear of Herbal Medicine, much of which has been used for thousands of years, both as food and medicine, accessible to everyone, either via a Herbalist or by growing the Herbs oneself.
8. Any Herbalist who refuses or is refused statutory regulation will not legally be able to continue treating their patients, putting their patient’s health at risk and denying their patients the right to choose their own Herbalist.
9. An undermining of our Traditional Knowledge, which has been used effectively for thousands of years before the development of pharmaceuticals, has taken place. Currently in favour is ‘scientific’ research that is often bad science, misleading, funded by pharmaceutical companies and at best only a small insight into the use of Herbs.
10. Voluntary Self Regulation, as practised by certain bodies of Western Herbal practitioners, has been safe, effective and of minimum cost.
In my experience people choose to come and see a Herbalist for a variety of reasons; a) They wish to use natural medicines believing them to be less likely to do harm than pharmaceutical drugs b) Mainstream medicine cannot help them c) They have been harmed in some way by mainstream medicine and have lost all faith in it. d) Having used Herbal Medicine in the past and know that they are very effective e) The care and time that they receive from a Herbalist assists their path back to health f) Our alternative philosophy about health.
The process towards SR has had little input from the vast majority of Herbalists. A very small number of Herbalists lobbied Government for state regulation in the early ‘90’s, believing that it would increase our status and perhaps enable work within the NHS. Both in Europe and UK, the pharmaceutical giants have heavily influenced the regulation of Herbalists and Herbal Medicine.
For further information please go to, SAVE OUR HERBS; THE CAMPAIGN FOR PROTECTION OF HERBAL MEDICINE http://www.saveourherbs.org.uk
The UK legislative provisions for herbal medicines are to be found in, the Medicines Act 1968, Section 12, paragraphs 1 & 2, and Section 56, paragraphs 1 & 2. Traditional Herbal Medicines Registration Scheme (UK law introduced to follow EU Directive 2004/24/EC)
Section 12(1) specifies exemption for herbal medicines from licensing provided that they are supplied subsequent to private personal consultation. Section 12(2) exempts herbal medicines provided that they are produced according to standard traditional, non-industrial methods. It also specifies that no written claims may be made for the use of the remedy. Section 12(2) is set to be abolished in 2011, being replaced by the Traditional Herbal Medicines Registration Scheme (30.5.05)
Section 56 reiterates and expands upon the provisions of 12(1). In addition, Statutory Instrument 2130 1977 lists several herbs "in respect of which the exemptions conferred by section 56(2) do not have effect". This removed the herbs so identified from general sale and specified that they may only be prescribed on consultation, or supplied under the supervision of a pharmacist. This list also specifies maximum permitted doses and daily doses for those herbs.
Other laws that protect the public from unscrupulous practice are covered under relevant laws for example; Common Law, Herbalist’s Act 1542 (The Statutes Law Revision Act 1948), Prohibited Appellations – Misrepresentation Act 1967 and Trade Descriptions Act 1969.
http://www.ehtpa.eu/pdf/steeringgroup/steering_group_report_16june08.pdf The Steering Group Report, May 2008
We also oppose the abolishing of section 12(2) of the 1968 Medicines Act to be replaced by The Traditional Medicines Registration Scheme by 2011.
These proposals have been heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, which stand to gain by the proposals. Any new state regulation requires that a sufficient risk can be demonstrated to prove the need for regulation, there is not any evidence to prove that herbalists or herbal medicine present a significant risk to the public under previous and present legislation, when policed properly.
These proposals will reduce access, increase costs, decrease patient choice, encourage a black market and send experienced herbalists underground, crucify our indigenous tradition and diversity of available healthcare. At a time when we face urgent environmental problems, herbal medicine provides some of the answers only if it remains a ‘people’s medicine’, simple and freely accessible.
Herbal medicine does not belong to herbalists or pharmaceutical companies, the public should be educated and encouraged to use traditional herbal medicines for minor health problems, not immobilised by a state of fear.