European Parliament Update: Better protection for users of herbal medicines

Good news for the millions of EU citizens who use traditional herbal medicines came from the Environment Committee on Tuesday when it adopted a codecision report by Giuseppe NISTICÓ (EPP-ED, I) on a Commission proposal to harmonise the legislation governing these products. The main aim of the proposal is to set up a special procedure for registering and marketing traditional herbal medicines with the overall goal of ensuring quality and safety standards.

The committee made a number of changes to the Commission's text. It rejected a call by some of its Members for homeopathic products to be covered by the directive but it did adopt an amendment allowing Member States to apply their own rules for "traditionally used non-conventional products".

On the definition of "traditional use", an amendment was adopted shortening from 15 to 10 years the period for which a product must have been in continuous use within the EU, if it has been in use for 30 years in total including time outside the EU. This will reduce the qualifying time for importing products from third countries.

In other amendments, the committee said that traditional herbal medicines should also be allowed to contain non-herbal ingredients. On better labelling, consumers should be told of any possible side-effects and dangerous interactions with food and other drugs. However, the committee deleted a requirement that consumers be informed if the efficacy of a product has not been clinically proven, on the grounds that negative information is not needed.

Lastly, MEPs reiterated a previous demand for the evaluation of herbal medicines to be carried out by the new Committee for Herbal Medicinal Products; they also want this Committee to draw up a detailed classification of herbal medicinal products.

This report under the codecision procedure, first reading, is on the agenda for the November II plenary session in Strasbourg.

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