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Herbal medicine regulation 'urgently needed'


Campaigners have called for stricter regulation of the herbal medicine industry after a Chinese herbal “doctor” admitted selling pills which resulted in a civil servant developing cancer.

The Old Bailey heard how Ying Wu sold “Xie Gan Wan” tablets to Patricia Booth for more than five years for a skin condition.

However, the tiny brown pills, far from alleviating any of Mrs Booth’s symptoms, eventually destroyed her kidneys and led to the 58-year-old developing cancer.

Although Wu pleaded guilty to a series of lesser counts in relation to the sale of the pills, the judge at the Old Bailey threw out a more serious charge of “administering a noxious substance” on the grounds that there was no evidence to suggest she knew the pills would cause any harm.

The decision has prompted the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine to call for stricter controls on the herbal medicine market.

The case highlighted “the urgent need for the statutory regulation of herbal medicine in the UK”, it said.

Ms Wu is due to be sentenced later.


Readers' comments (3)

  • It is true that some Chinese medicine people want tostatutory regulation because that would give the appearence of government endorsement to practices that are unproven or disproved.

    The form of (pseudo)-regulation that was poposed to the government by the late Prof Pittilo, would endanger patients. It would do little to prevent things of this sort.

    There are laws in place that make it illegal to make false health claims and to seel adultered or dangerous "medicines". Tradibg Standards and MHRA should have the resources to implement these laws properly. (at thee mometn they don't). What we don't need is enormous expansion of a quango (the health professions Council) that has already said that it doesn't mind whether the "medicines" work or not

    More information can be found here

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  • David Colquhoun's comments are just plain silly. The bottom line is, this incident would not have occurred had statutory regulation been already in place for herbalists. The current government made a commitment to regulate herbs and acupuncture more than 10 years ago, and has delayed since. That cannot continue in light of this case.

    The fact that the herb in question is already illegal and was banned in 1999 clearly demonstrates that simply banning problem herbs does not work.

    The judge in this case dismissed the charges because of a lack of regulation. There is still nothing to stop this same shopkeeper selling inappropriate herbs to an unsuspecting person - the British public deserve to be protected through proper regulation.

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  • David Colquhoun's comments are, although silly, relatively pleasant today regarding this subject. What he fails to mention is vast prescribing 'off license' in medicine or the lack of understanding of how some drugs work and questionable effectiveness of them, yet are prescribed regularly, eg. anti-depressants. The lack of reporting of a lot of reactions to medications or mistakes made in prescriptions however well meant or apparently innocuous. The lack of evidence based prescribing...huge. Not necessarily a bad thing but in context of his venom towards the complementary medicine is ironic to say the least.

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