TCM Monographs: The Emperor's New Clothes

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TCM Monographs: The Emperor's New Clothes
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Those who worried that the silly season last year would go by without any bad news on TCM herbals, were waited on hand and foot by the comments of Simon Mills quoted in Nutraingredients. (See pieces by Shane Starling: 'UK busts more contaminated Chinese herbal medicine'; 'Piracy blights fragile global botanicals sector', 21 and 23 August 2013).

The immediate cause was the discovery of further examples of contaminated Chinese patent remedies (eg Bak Foong Pills (for menstrual pain) and Hairgenerator (for hair loss)), and consequent warnings by the MHRA. Simon Mills was growing weary of the barrage of contamination episodes emanating from China: 'This is a long term problem that does not seem to be getting any better', Mills said, and 'I am sure the MHRA is as focused on this as they can be but frankly we are all fed up with this—it is almost unpoliceable—no QA/QC regime can manage stuff that does not go through any identifiable channel--and constantly undermines the rest of the herbal sector.' All this called for 'drastic measures' and an 'adequate medicinal registration system like the THMPD'.

These comments by the eminent herbalist, on behalf of a self-proclaimed bona fide herbal sector in whose name he speaks, encouraged Shane Starling to suggest that a blanket ban on TCM in the EU as a whole should be considered. However, Simon Mills and Shane Starling forgot to mention a few things: that most of these products can only be remotely associated with TCM, that they are not confined to Chinese export, and most important, that nowadays this is almost exclusively a UK problem. Did anyone ever wonder why the incidence of such cases keeps recurring in the UK while it is as good as wiped out on the continent? Indeed, the few cases that occurred in Belgium and Holland in the past 5 years were all related to patent remedies imported from UK herb shops.
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Author Chris Dhaenens
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