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Parliamentary Written Questions: focusing the attention of the Commission on homeopathic and anthroposophic medicinal products in 2015

12 Feb 2016

During 2015, ECHAMP worked with a number of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to table Written Questions to the Commission. These Questions can serve as a useful means to enter into dialogue with the Commission and to focus attention on specific issues, which helps put or keep these issues onto the EU policy agenda – or at least make them more visible.

During 2015, our focus was on the availability of our products. The publication of the Commission-requested Matrix Insight report entitled ‘The Availability of Medicinal Products for Human Use’ in November 2014 provided an excellent point of reference. Not only could it be seen as a positive indication of the Commission’s interest in our area; it also had a specific focus on the situation with respect to the availability of homeopathic and anthroposophic medicinal products. It showed a clear recognition of the increasing importance of this sector and the specific problems it faces and specifically underlined the incomplete and slow implementation and enforcement of EU medicine legislation in this area.

Norbert Lins MEP tabled two Questions, the first of which (tabled 24 March) focused on whether the Commission intended to take steps to ensure that the specific problems facing our sector – as recognized by the report – can be addressed more effectively and how the findings of the report can be put to effective use, as input in ongoing policy discussions and developments.

The Commission’s response was disappointing: its reply underlined that the Matrix Insight report was prepared by an outside contractor and did not necessarily reflect the Commission’s official opinion. The Commission also emphasized that the Matrix Insight report has found no major issues regarding the availability of homeopathic and anthroposophic medicinal products for specific symptoms. Lastly, it was made clear that there are no plans to modify the legislation on homeopathic medicinal products or to introduce a specific framework for anthroposophic medicinal products.

In a follow up Question tabled on 8 July, Norbert Lins asked the Commission to specify which products were actually surveyed by the Matrix Insight report and whether these products were registered or authorized. Surprisingly, the Commission replied that the Matrix Insight report refers to ECHAMP’s ‘Availability’ report and that the products listed in this report.

On 16 July Marian Harkin MEP also addressed a follow-up Question to the reply received by Norbert Lins MEP. She addressed the fact that the Commission states that the Matrix study ‘does not necessarily reflect its official opinion’ and the disclaimer included in the report, stating that ‘it does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this study’.

As the Matrix report was originally commissioned with a view to informing EU policy development, Mrs. Harkin asked the Commission to clarify its actual value. She also asked whether the Commission has other, more robust data on registered and authorised homeopathic and anthroposophic medicinal products or has plans to generate these.

The Commission reply was short: it stated that the study aims to inform the development of policy on the issues that it covers, that the Commission has not gathered other data on registered or authorised homeopathic and anthroposophic medicinal products and that there are currently no plans to generate further data or information on the availability of homeopathic and anthroposophic medicinal products.

ECHAMP is currently working with Norbert Lins on follow-up Questions, which will be tabled together with Marian Harkin MEP early this year.

A number of other Written Questions on related issues were also tabled by MEPs in 2015:

On 21 April, Marlene Mizzi MEP tabled a Question asking the Commission to clarify which EU funds are currently available for Alternative Medicine projects. In its answer, the Commission specified that two current EU programmes, - the Third Health Programme and Horizon 2020 (the EU’s R&D funding programme) - provide opportunities to support Alternative Medicine projects. The answer also refers to the CAMbrella project, which was funded by Horizon 2020’s predecessor (‘FP7’) and which provides a mapping of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) area. FP7 also funded three projects in the field of Chinese medicine.

On 24 June Kateřina Konečná MEP tabled a Question, referring to the growing number of Czech citizens voicing fears that in putting forward the regulation on novel foods, the Commission may be trying to prohibit the consumption of various herbs, algae and mushrooms from third countries which are often used in alternative (e.g. Chinese or Indian) medicine. If this were the case, some 25 % of Czech citizens would be deprived of their right to choose how they are treated. She therefore asked the Commission whether it planned to ban the sale of these products and also requested confirmation that the Commission is not planning to interfere in the use of alternative medicine.

In its answer, the Commission stated that EU legislation on pharmaceutical products for human use also applies in general to traditional herbal medicines. As traditional herbal medicines fall under the scope of pharmaceutical legislation, the legislation on novel food has no direct impact on herbal medicines. The Commission also confirmed that at this stage there are no plans to modify the EU rules applicable to herbal medicinal products.

On 16 July, Marian Harkin MEP also tabled a Question addressing whether the Commission intends to oblige Member States to appropriately regulate CAM practices and professionals according to their fields of action and to provide for equitable citizen access and for cross-border rights to practice and granting CAM professionals the legal right to work across the EU.

In its answer, the Commission underlined that the regulation of professions or professional activities is up to Member States. There are exceptions to this principle for a limited number of professions for which minimum training requirements have been harmonised at EU level on the recognition of professional qualifications. However, the CAM professionals are not among those professions (doctors, midwives, nurses responsible for general care, dental practitioners, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons and architects).

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