'Natural cures' to face safety scrutiny

21 November 2013 - 02:53 By KATHARINE CHILD

Thousands of herbal medicines on the shelf that promise a cure from disease, or improved sexual performance, are finally going to be regulated.

An amendment to the Medicines and Related Substances Act regulations has just come into effect.

That means more than 155000 "complementary medicines", including vitamins, sprays, herbal and homeopathic products, now have to prove to the Medicines Control Council they are safe.

Food and registered medicines are tested for safety but, until now, herbal and complementary medicines have slipped through the regulatory net.

Spoor and Fisher patent lawyer Dirk Hanekom said the more radical a claim that is made for a product, the more evidence will be required by the council.

Manufacturers who make "herbal medicines" that promise to help with heart disease need to register and show the safety and effectiveness of products in six months.

Manufacturers of slimming pills and products that "boost" sexual performance have two years to provide the council with safety data.

"If they cannot prove that a product is safe, it will be taken off the market," said consumer activist Dr Harris Steinman.

But Steinman questioned whether the council had the staff or capability to regulate the products.

"Who is going to read the estimated 155000 dossiers detailing evidence and safety of up to 155000 products?"

Products awaiting registration must have a leaflet that says: "This medicine has not been evaluated by the Medicines Control Council. This medicine is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."