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Natural Medicines

Volume 171: debated on Friday 27 April 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he has any plans to request the medicines advisory research committee of the Natural Medicines Society to assess natural medicines; what proportion of those persons serving on the Medicines Control Agency practise alternative or complementary medical techniques; and if he will make a statement.

We have no plans to request such outside bodies to undertake assessment functions which, under the Medicines Act 1968, are a matter for the licensing authority. It is however open to companies to support their applications with opinion from such advisers as they consider appropriate.Professional staff of the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) are qualified in medicine, pharmacy and related sciences.I understand the Natural Medicines Society to be supportive of herbal, homeopathic and anthroposophic medicines. Different factors apply in each case. Herbal medicines are, in European Community (EC) law, subject to the main pharmaceutical directives. Herbalism holds in common with conventional medicine that efficacy is proportional to dose. Guidelines for the assessment of herbal medicine were discussed with industry and published in 1985.Homeopathic products are not at present subject to EC directives, but a Commission proposal has very recently been put to the Council of Ministers. It would be premature to anticipate the adoption of the directive with arrangements peculiar to homeopathic medicines. Officials have already had informal preparatory communication with those interested in the United Kingdom in homeopathic medicines. This communication will be developed during negotiations in Brussels.Anthroposophic medicine has some characteristics in common with homoepathy, but there are distinctions. It will have to be clarified whether it is the intention that the directive is to apply to such medicines and, if so, what modifications should be considered.