(February 6, 2006, Silver Spring, MD) -- Steven Dentali, PhD, vice president for scientific and technical affairs for the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), addressed the Advisory Council of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) on Friday, providing an update on new applied standards to ensure the quality of research into herbal products and other biologically active test agents.
From 2002–2005, Dentali served on the study section that reviews NCCAM R21 grants (Investigator-Initiated Exploratory/Developmental Research). “Early on in those review panel meetings,” Dentali said, “it became clear that product quality issues often required a distinct and sometimes separate focus because researchers rarely got this part of the research proposal right.”
Dentali now chairs the five-member Product Quality Working Group (PQWG), which was approved in concept last summer and formed this winter to address the issue. In Friday's address to the Council, he explained how the new PQWG reviews “just-in-time” information submitted by applicants for the highest scoring proposals before a funding decision is made. Investigators who research botanical preparations must follow guidance that includes information on 20 different points including identification of the source material, its source, cleanliness and quality standards, extraction procedures and formulation, and stability and storage. Similar information is required for proposed research into products derived from animals, probiotics, placebos, and other agents. Dentali, with help from AHPA members, provided input to the guidance, which can be accessed online: http://nccam.nih.gov/research/policies/bioactive.htm.
“While it may seem burdensome to require preeminent researchers in their chosen field to jump through NCCAM product quality just-in-time hoops, we cannot allow good scientific work to go to waste because the natural product link isn't adequately developed,” Dentali said. “If scientists want NCCAM funds to study natural products, then adequate required expertise must be brought to bear.”
NCCAM Director Stephen Strauss asked Dentali if NCCAM could use the text of his talk on the NCCAM website to help researchers understand these new product quality requirements and thanked him not only for his help in chairing the PQWG but for teaching NCCAM what they need to know regarding botanical product quality issues.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is the only national trade association devoted solely to herbal issues. Representing the core of the botanical trade -- comprised of the finest growers, processors, manufacturers and marketers of herbal products -- AHPA’s mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products. AHPA committees generate self-regulations to ensure the highest level of quality with respect to the way herbs are manufactured, labeled, and sold. Website: www.ahpa.org