Health: Food Supplements and Herbal Remedies

House of Lords written question – answered on 5th March 2007.

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Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Spokesperson in the Lords, Culture, Media & Sport

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many complaints about food supplements and herbal remedies being marketed in the United Kingdom with illegal health claims by companies based in the Channel Islands have been referred by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to the appropriate agencies in Guernsey and Jersey in the past two years; and what information the agency has received about the subsequent investigation of such complaints and the eventual outcomes; and

When and for what reasons it was made illegal to offer kava kava for sale in the United Kingdom; and what assessment they have made of (a). the implications for public health of this decision; and (b) the legality of the continued marketing of products containing kava kava for sale to United Kingdom consumers by mail order from the Channel Islands; and

When and for what reasons it was made illegal to offer melatonin for sale in the United Kingdom; and what assessment they have made of (a). the implications for public health of this decision; and (b) the legality of the continued marketing of products containing melatonin for sale to United Kingdom consumers by mail order from the Channel Islands; and

What assessment they have made of the claims that Beres Drops cure cancer by the Healthy for Life company of the Channel Islands in its direct marketing to United Kingdom consumers; and

What steps they propose to take to prevent direct-mail advertising from the Channel Islands offering products banned in the United Kingdom and products for which promotional health claims are made that would be illegal in the United Kingdom and the European Union; and

What powers are available to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to prevent the marketing to United Kingdom mainland consumers of unlicensed medicinal products by companies based in the Channel Islands; and what steps they will take to address this issue.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (NHS Reform)

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has referred nine complaints to the Guernsey authorities and seven to the Jersey authorities since 1 January 2005. The MHRA received feedback from the Guernsey authorities on three cases. In two cases there were no offences under Guernsey law and in the third case the company was not actually based in Guernsey. The MHRA received feedback on three cases from the Jersey authorities. In all three cases the companies were not actually based in Jersey.

A prohibition order on the sale, supply and importation of kava kava in unlicensed medicines, other than for external use, came into force on 13 January 2003. The order was made following advice from the Committee on Safety of Medicines and the Medicines Commission (the independent advisory committees advising the Secretary of State) that kava kava poses a rare but serious risk of liver toxicity. Similar action was taken in relation to kava kava in foods. The Guernsey authorities have investigated the supply of kava kava by a company apparently based on that island. The investigation showed that the product was not actually being distributed from Guernsey but from Cyprus. A complaint has been referred to the authorities in Cyprus.

There are no special legislative restrictions on the sale or supply of the hormone melatonin. Unless it is being supplied as an unlicensed medicine in accordance with the relevant statutory controls, a medicinal product containing melatonin requires a marketing authorisation before it may be lawfully sold or supplied. The status of melatonin under medicines legislation was first considered in 1989. The MHRA is unaware of any implication for public health by the classification of melatonin as a medicinal product. The MHRA refers complaints about the sale and supply of melatonin from the Channel Islands to the relevant regulatory authority.

The MHRA considers that the claims made for beres drops bring the product within the definition of a medicinal product. No assessment of the accuracy of those claims has been made as no application for a marketing authorisation has been received. Although the product was being sold by a Guernsey-based company, the MHRA took action to prevent advertising by a United Kingdom publication.

There are no specific powers in the medicines legislation administered by the MHRA or in the Postal Services Act 2000 to control direct-mail advertising from the Channel Islands. The legislation administered by the MHRA does not apply to the Channel Islands. Advertisements issued from the islands would be the responsibility of the relevant authorities within those islands.

The legislation administered by the MHRA does not apply to the Channel Islands. The islands have their own legislative Assemblies and are responsible for the regulation of activities relating to medicinal products that take place from those islands; therefore, any suspected illegal activity is referred to the relevant authority in the Channel Islands for investigation.

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No1 person thinks not

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