|In November last year regulations for natural medicines, or complementary and alternative medicines (CAMS) as they are referred to, were passed that could effectively removed 60 to 85% of CAMS from the shelves, depending on whose estimate you go on. There was no broad consultation and they came as a surprise to the industry; the public, even today, know little about them.
This industry is worth around R7-billion, with more than 30 000 products on the market. The regulations define a new category of medicines under the law, Category D Complementary Medicines. Anything that doesnt fit into that definition moves to Category A, general medicines, which are pharmaceutical drugs.
Probiotics, now a Category A medicine, will need to be registered under the same stringent requirements as, for example, Prozac. So too high dose Vitamin C (which has excellent research behind it); doses higher than 500 iU of Vitamin D3 (the VItamin D Council in the United States recommends a dose of 5000i). Around 65% of products now on the market will fall into the "general drugs" category.
The reasons given are that this is in the interests of public safety.
Dr Bernard Brom, Chairman of chairman of the SA Society for Integrative Medicine, is concerned that innovative natural products used by Integrative Medical doctors around the world will require regulation under the new system which would make it almost impossible for them to be registered. "I think we need a significant change in the way natural medicines are regulated that comes wth the understanding that the practitioner and public should be able to have free choice around the management of ill health, just as we have in choosing to smoke, drink alcohol and buy junk foods," says Dr Brom.
[Extracts from Jeanne Vialls article.] Click here to read the full article
From TNHA newsletter. Chairman Dr Bernard Brom
Professor Edzard Ernst was chosen as the first Professor of Complementary Medicine in the UK. He published widely over a 15-year period and became a most unpopular voice for complementary medicine, much to everyones surprise. In particular he objected in the strongest terms to the use of homeopathy despite his early experience at home.
In a profile written in the British Medical Journal he revealed to the author that: "Our family doctor in the village outside Munich where I grew up was a homeopath. My mother swore by it. As a kid I was treated homeopathically. So this kind of medicine just came naturally. Even during my studies I pursued other things like massage therapy and acupuncture... As a young doctor I had an appointment in a homeopathic hospital, and I was very impressed with its success rate." So what happened to turn him around to become such a critic of natural medicines? It is not difficult to understand. Ernst followed the standard scientific approach to natural medicines, which is to use one product (the drug) to treat the "disease" or symptoms. This is the so-called "specific therapeutic effect". When using this criteria it would not surprise anyone if homeopathy or any natural product would probably fail. Homeopathic medicines and natural products are not nearly as strong as drugs. They generally just dont work in this way. They dont have "specific therapeutic effects".
Herbal products are extremely complex compared to simple chemical drugs developed in a factory. Vitamins and minerals may not be as complex in structure, but have multiple areas of action within the body. Magnesium for example is involved in about 300 chemical processes, selenium in 70 to 80 processes, B6 is involved in the formation of body proteins and structural compounds, chemical transmitters in the nervous system, red blood cells and prostaglandins and critical in maintaining hormonal balance and proper immune function.
It is therefore difficult to talk about "specific therapeutic effects" but rather we should talk about broad-
ranging effects, which are used to support healthy functions. So it would be wrong to try to use a single such product for a projected end point. Integrative doctors dont use natural products in this way. Generally we use multiple products, which have more sweeping effects supporting healthy function, and slowly these improving functions help the bodys own innate intelligence return the system to normal. So specific therapeutic effect research just does not work for natural products. Integrative doctors dont use natural products for treating disease in the way drugs are used, but they include multiple nutrients to support healthy function. A new approach to research is required where "health" becomes the end point and not just the alleviation of symptoms or control of the "disease".
Are Herbs Medicines?
A recent article proved that St Johns Wort (Hypericum) did no better when compared to a well-known drug used for depression, and also had many side effects. Yes, those side effects were far fewer than the drugs side-effects, but the author pointed out that perhaps all the side-effects of the herb had probably not been reported, and there were probably far more. That may be true, but the fact is that all the side-effects of drugs are not reported either. Most important of all is that the side-effects of drugs can be very serious and even kill, while the side effects of herbs are much less severe by comparison, and deaths from herbs are extremely rare.
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