HC Deb 22 January 2003 vol 398 cc390-1W
Dr. Evan Harris

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information his Department collates on the number of adverse events in relation to(a) herbal medicines and (b) dietary supplements. [91127]

Ms Blears

The Medicines Control Agency/ Committee on Safety of Medicines (MCA/CSM) Yellow Card Scheme collates reports of suspected adverse reactions to medicines. The scheme was extended to include unlicensed herbal remedies in October 1996. The MCA also collates reports of suspected adverse reactions to vitamins and minerals.

In addition, the MCA collates information on the safety of medicines, including unlicensed herbal remedies and vitamins and minerals from the published literature (such as the recent article in the "Lancet" on 11 January 2003), from other regulatory authorities and from external bodies such as Guy's Hospital medical toxicology unit.

A number of articles have been published in the CSM/ MCA drug safety bulletin, "Current Problems in Pharmacovigilance", drawing attention to adverse reactions associated with the use of herbal remedies and encouraging reporting through the Yellow Card Scheme.

Herbal medicines and vitamin and mineral supplements are often supplied without prescription, and are taken without advice from doctors or pharmacists. It is generally recognised that the reporting rate for medicines supplied over the counter (OTC) is lower than that of suspected adverse reactions associated with prescription medicines. To increase reporting of suspected adverse reactions with OTC medicines, the Yellow Card Scheme has recently been extended to include nurses as reporters, and will be extended to include patient reporting via NHS Direct in the near future.

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