Herbal medicine scare overblown and ill-founded

04 May 2010

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The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI), the industry body representing nonprescription consumer healthcare products, said today that an academic study suggesting lifethreatening dangers associated with herbal remedies needed to be treated with caution.

ASMI was responding to an article in the Daily Telegraph, quoting a research paper by Professor Roger Byard of the University of Adelaide published in the journal Australasian Science. It is based on an article published in the United States-based Journal of Forensic Sciences. ASMI Regulatory and Technical Manager for Complementary Medicines, Ms Ruth Kendon, said the academic paper was based largely on studies of herbal products in the U.S. where these products are unregulated. It does not reflect the situation in Australia where herbal and complementary products are subject to quality control.

"Australia has one of the most comprehensive regulatory arrangements in the world for
complementary medicines. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the body
responsible for overseeing this regime and it has an outstanding reputation for ensuring quality and safety including quality materials," she said.

"Some of the adverse reactions cited relate to cases where extremely high doses have been used. Most of the interactions with other medicines that have been cited are theoretical, and many have been disproven," Ms Kendon said.

Regulation ofmedicines in Australia is based on a risk-based management model in which the aimis to ensure that the level of regulation is commensurate with the level of risk posed by the medicines. Herbal medicines are considered relatively low risk products but, as with all medicines, consumers should not assume that they are entirely risk-free.
In the case of Black Cohosh, which featured in the report, the TGA mandated label warnings several years ago to alert consumers to the possibility of a very rare risk of liver damage.

As with all health-related products, ASMI encourages consumers to consult the advice of an appropriate healthcare professional when considering using a new treatment.
"In the case of herbal medicines, consumers should first consult their pharmacist or qualified naturopath or herbalist when considering using a product. ASMI also recommends consumers talk to their healthcare professional before combining any forms of medication, whether it be prescription, complementary or over-the-counter."
About ASMI: The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak industry body for the Australian self care industry representing consumer healthcare products including over-the-counter medicines and complementary medicines. ASMI's mission is to promote better health through responsible self-care. This means ensuring that safe and effective self-care products are readily available to all Australians at a reasonable cost. ASMI works to encourage responsible use by consumers and an increasing role for cost-effective self-medication products as part of the broad national health strategy. www.asmi.com.au

Media contact: Bob Bowden, Foresight Communications (02) 9241 2811, 0412 753 298