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Independents' Day

GP concern over Prince Charles herbal medicines lobbying

GPs are questioning whether the views of Prince Charles may have delayed the rollout of EU regulations on alternative medicines in the UK.

The concerns have been raised since correspondence between Tony Blair’s Government and the Prince were made public this week after 10 years of legal wrangling by the Guardian newspaper to see them released.

The letters revealed that the Prince lobbied the Prime Minister and members of his government on alternative therapy issues including the European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicine Products.

Returning correspondence to Prince Charles in February 2005, then health secretary John Reid said that consultation showed strong support for legislation to regulate herbal medicine, however despite this the directive was only introduced in the UK in 2011.

Correspondence between the Prince and Mr Blair saw Charles warning that the EU directive would have a ‘deleterious effect’ on the complementary medicine sector by ‘effectively outlawing the use of certain herbal extracts’.

Referring to a previous meeting, the Prince said: ‘I think we both agreed this was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.’

Mr Blair wrote back: ‘The implementation as planned is crazy. We can do quite a lot here: we will delay implementation for all existing products to 2011… We simply cannot have burdensome regulation here.’

Dr Andrew Green, a GP in Yorkshire and the chair of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee, said: ‘Some of the views held by Prince Charles are not in concordance with the vast majority of the medical profession, but people have a right to hold such views. The issue here is whether his views were given extra weight by his position.’

Dr John Cosgrove, a GP in Birmingham and RCGP council member, commented: ‘My principal concern would be that misconceptions about the effectiveness and safety of herbal remedies as compared to medicines or products have been perpetuated.’

An outspoken advocate of herbal therapies, the Prince has promoted ‘integrated health’ in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and in speeches to the World Health Assembly.

He previously ran a charity called the Foundation for Integrated Health that was dissolved in 2010.

Commenting on the letters, a Clarence House spokesperson said: ‘The letters published by the Government show The Prince of Wales expressing concern about issues that he has raised in public… In all these cases, The Prince of Wales is raising issues of public concern, and trying to find practical ways to address the issues.’

The news comes after Pulse revealed that up to 30 CCGs are currently being targeted with legal threats because they were funding non-evidence based homeopathy treatments.

Readers' comments (3)

  • I think that Prince Charles was as ineffective as homeopathy.

    The EU Directive concerned is the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive 2004/24/EC of 31 March 2004, which was published in the OJ (Official Journal of the EU) on 30 April 2004. According to Article 3 of the Directive, the latter is the date it came into force.

    Article 2 mandated that the transition period (where non-registered herbal products could still be placed on the market) could end as late as 30 April 2011 (seven years after it came into force) - the actual date set in the UK was 31 March 2011.

    We don't know whether the Government had originally intended to end the transition period on an earlier date and whether Tony Blair was able to push it out to the latest possible date, but it would seem that Prince Charles had little, if any, effect.

    Perhaps what is more surprising is that Prince Charles doesn't appear to have lobbied for homeopathy.

    I suspect many homeopathy manufacturers, homeopaths, trade bodies and their supporters (including David Tredinnick MP) will be surprised and disappointed by this revelation.

    Alan Henness
    The Nightingale Collaboration
    Challenging misleading healthcare claims

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  • Alan Hennes is probably right about the particular question of herbal regulation,

    That doesn't mean that the prince is always so ineffective. The fact that the Department of Health thought fit to consult the prince's right hand man, Dr Michael Dixon about the NHS Choices advice about homeopathy would almost certainly have resulted in bad advice being given, if it were not for the fact the the Freedom of Information Act revealed what was going on,

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Anyone seen his own "Toytown"? aka Poundbury in Dorset. Built on Duchy of Cornwall Land I imagine.

    It might, just MIGHT have looked OK as a new build in the middle of nowhere, but to my (untutored) eye, bolting it on to an existing town (Dorchester) makes it look completely potty.

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