August 22, 2002
From a press release
Health Canada Has No Further Proof There Is a Link Between Kava and Liver Damage
TORONTO - Today's Health Canada stop-sale order of all products containing Kava is completely unacceptable, says CHFA president Donna Herringer. Health Canada did not discuss its assessment with experts in the field of herbal medicine and they have no new evidence on which to base their decision today. "Cautions for responsible use can be put on the label, but a full out ban without additional research or confirmed incident is irresponsible on the part of the Government" adds Herringer. "This is a perfect example of why there is a need for a unique regulatory body for natural products."
Months ago, the Canadian Health Food Association supplied Health Canada with a copy of The Waller Report, prepared for the American Herbal Products Association. The Report, prepared by Dr. Donald Waller, PhD, DABT, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Illinois at Chicago, reviewed the FDA, German and European cases citing kava and reports of liver damage and concluded that "based on the data available to me at this time, there is no clear evidence that the liver damage reported in the US and Europe was caused by consumption of kava."
The use of Kava by the Europeans reporting liver disease may have been a result of using Kava in combination with prescription drugs or it may have stemmed from using Kava well above recommended levels. A recent survey of 400 German medical practices revealed that 78% of the Kava prescriptions that were written significantly exceed the recommended intake. (Int Journal Clinical Pharmacolog Ther 2001) The German authorities have not made the case reports public, so we don't know what dosage was being consumed or other possible contributing factors such as alcohol intake or history of viral hepatitis.
The CHFA also supplied Health Canada with a list of Industry experts and practitioners that could help form a review board for Kava. The review board has not yet been formed.
Currently, the United States has not put a ban on the sale of kava and is in agreement with the U.S. natural health products industry's position that kava remain for sale with the addition of cautionary labeling. The CHFA recommends the same cautionary labeling practice. Dr. Anthony Godfrey, ND, on behalf of the CHFA, recommends the following safety measures for the use of kava:
- Do not exceed recommended dosage levels
- If you are currently on a tranquilizer or anti-depressant, you will need to work with a physician to get off the drug. Stopping the drug on your own can be dangerous. You must have medical supervision
- Do not use Kava if you have Parkinson's disease
- Do not take Kava in combination with alcohol
- Do not take Kava in combination with benzodiazepines like Valium and Halcyon unless under medical supervision
- Do not take Kava for periods greater than three months without medical supervision.
The CHFA, the representative body for manufacturers, retailers and suppliers to the health food industry, would like to remind consumers that there are other factors to consider before leaping to the conclusion that Kava causes liver damage. Donna Herringer, President of the CHFA, is on the Industry Liaison Committee of the Natural Health Products Directorate, to provide guidance on issues pertaining to the natural health products industry. As far as the CHFA is concerned, the sooner that Natural Health Products Directorate has the authority to regulate the Industry, the sooner consumers will have accurate information on products used as alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs.