For years, many people have had the benefit and choice of being able to purchase nutritional and health supplements over the counter (OTC). These include a range of important high potency vitamin and mineral supplements which have had an established history of use and have been previously tested for their safety with calculations of RDAs (recommended daily allowance) clearly stipulated. Amongst these health supplements, there are a number of beneficial and useful herbal supplements that many people rely on heavily for a quality of life and health status not dependent on prescription drugs or regular visits to the doctor or GP.
For some time now, discussions have taken place that will very soon put into practice the proposal to limit or stop the availability of certain high potency supplements and selected herbal remedies. The EC (European Commission) will imminently bring forward the long-awaited proposals of the Food Supplements Directive to set maximum permitted dosage levels for supplements across all EU (European Union) member states.
A similar proposal has been underway in the US for a while now and campaigners warn of the disastrous consequences that this will have on the lives on many who are utterly reliant on the availability of such supplements and who actively take responsibility for their own health and well-being.
What this means for the consumer
The indications of the proposed Food Supplements Directive are that levels will be set well below the nutrient levels currently available today in EU member states (including Britain) and the US under their Senate ruling. This will mean that the higher doses (long established as safe and effective) of certain vitamins and minerals including some herbal remedies will be illegal to sell. This will significantly limit the range and choice that consumers have long had of the many supplements shown to improve health and well-being or indeed to manage a current medical condition by way of nutritional supplementation.
Moreover, the EU Traditional Herbal Remedies Products Directive threatens the availability of hundreds of beneficial herbal medicines from the UK market if their manufacturers do not submit applications to register them by April 2011. In the UK, the MHRA (Medicines and Heathcare Products Regulatory Agency) is conducting the process and only 14 applications have been approved since 2005 and only 21 applications are in lieu. To complicate the process, the regulations are such that registration in one EU member state does not automatically mean that it applies to all the other member states. Therefore a company that currently markets its products in a number of EU countries must apply for registration in each of the countries where availability is sought. And it's not as if it is a affordable process; Bioforce for example has spent over £80,000 to register their St. John's Wort product Hyperiforce (taken for low mood and mild anxiety).
With restricted sale of vital supplements, many healthcare practitioners are also worried that this will inevitably increase cost and many will end up paying more for supplements with meaningless doses that are worthless and ineffective. Worse still, campaigners are worried that the over-zealous lobbyists pushing this ill-thought out proposals of the Food Supplements Directive will, knowing the view of the medical profession on supplementation, result in many people being offerered a pharmaceutical/ prescription drug alternative. More profit for the big pharma industries..... quelle surprise!
Small, unique herbal manufacturers simply cannot afford this long and extremely expensive registration process and if nothing is done, many will go out of business along with the health shops that will no longer be able to sell their products.
What you can do
To find out more about the Save Our Supplements Campaign, please visit http://www.consumersforhealthchoice.com/ for the UK and EU campaign entitled 'Time is running out'. For the US campaign, please visit http://www.saveoursupplements.org/ to find out how your help can ensure continuity of choice that many rely on for keeping healthy and to enjoy optimum health. You can sign a petition, write a letter to the EU Commissioner for Health & Consumer Policy or lobby the government. Any action, small or big will all make a difference. ACT NOW TO SAVE OUR SUPPLEMENTS!!