It sounds like a bad April Fool’s joke, but it’s not. On the first of April next year, thousands of products associated with traditional medicine will become illegal throughout the European Union.
April 1, 2011, is the date the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) comes into force throughout Europe. Many herbal products—including those already sold safely as food supplements—will need to be registered under THMPD if they are to be made available. But registration involves a series of eligibility and technical challenges as well as prohibitive costs, so a large number of traditional medicines will be prevented from being registered. This is especially true if the medicines are made by smaller companies with low annual sales volumes—a fairly common occurrence with traditional medicines.
In their take-no-prisoners strategy to wipe out every penny of competition and gain complete control of the health of the people, Big Pharma and Agribusiness have scored a major win in Europe. Similar, potentially devastating battles are also underway in the U.S.
How can this be happening?
The secret weapon used by drug companies is trade law. According to Gaia Health:
“Rather than treating food and traditional medicines as human rights issues, they have been treated as trade issues. That makes the desires of large corporations the focus of food and herbal law, rather than the needs and desires of people.
It’s this twisting that has resulted in the FDA’s making outrageously absurd statements, such as claiming that Cheerios and walnuts quite literally become drugs simply because of health claims made for them.”
A related concern is that laws and regulations that are enacted in Europe often influence US policy—and a negative outcome over there is a dangerous precedent that could be adopted here at home. So preserving access in the EU is absolutely critical to our own health freedoms.
Our colleagues at the Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH-Intl), together with the European Benefyt Foundation (EBF), have established a joint working group to coordinate their response to this issue. They plan a three-pronged attack:
- Force a judicial review of THMPD as being an unsuitable vehicle for assessing traditional medicines. Not a single Ayurvedic or traditional Chinese medicine product has been registered under it. This will be expensive—please see below about how you can help with a gift.
- Change the EU food supplement regulations. The current regulations say that herbal products previously sold as food supplements are to be reclassified as medicines; a food or herb preparation is considered “novel” (and thus banned from sale) if it cannot be proved that one or more of its ingredients had been used significantly in the EU before May 1997; and health claims made by many herbal products are banned, limiting consumer choice.
- Facilitate a new regulatory framework for traditional medicinal products to replace THMPD and expand its scope. This would regulate not only over-the-counter herbal medicines, but practitioner-prescribed and pharmacy-dispensed supplements as well. The European Benefyt Foundation has been working to develop such a framework for over a year.