Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Analysis of Chinese herbal creams prescribed for dermatological conditions

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 27 February 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:563

Rapid Response:

Chinese herbal creams

Dear Editor

Keane et al, BMJ 1999, 318; 563 (Analysis of Chinese herbal creams
prescribed for dermatological conditions) have submitted further evidence
that some of the widely-touted so-called 'herbal' and 'natural' products
contain potent prescription-only drugs. This serves to remind us that
although such preparations are often aggressively advertised as harmless
"it is 'natural'/'herbal' so it has no drug
interactions or side effects" ) directly to the unsuspecting patient (and
sometimes sold to them by non-medically qualified practitioners), many of
them are in fact definitely NOT harmless. Many of these preparations do
carry adequate labelling of the contents. POM ingredients are included
with no indication of their presence. Interactions are highly likely with
both prescribed medication, and other non-prescribed drugs. Even allergies
occur to such off-label constituents, such as for lactose-intolerant
patients to the lactose in many 'homoeopathic' preparations. Let us not
forget that both
warfarin (clover) and Digoxin (foxglove) are herbal drugs, but both can be
fatal if improperly used. Even aspirin, a completely safe, 'herbal'
variety of which can be obtained from some herbalists (as claimed on TV
this week) is subject to side effects and allergic reactions in
susceptible people. It is about time we as a Profession took
responsibility for ensuring Government applies controls to the production
and distribution of ALL drugs, and stop the loophole that allows
'natural', 'herbal', and 'homoeopathic'
remedies to be marketed with no guarantees of efficacy, safety, stable
dosage, and product quality. After all, it is the health and safety of our
patients that is at risk.

David Church
locum GP

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 March 1999
David Church