Regulation of Natural Medicines in Israel and Abroad
T. Lavy, B. Haran, J. Shemer, S. Shani
Israel Ministry of Health, Pharmaceutical Policy and Economics Unit; Israel Center for Technology Assessment in Health Care; Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research; Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University
Hand-in-hand with the public's growing interest in health care, there has been an increasing demand for natural health products considered both safe and medically effective. But many such products have not been shown to meet efficacy and safety criteria and therefore can not be registered as pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, it is quite clear that some products do have pharmacological activity and are being used for therapeutic or preventive effects.
In Israel, the marketing rules for food or dietary supplements prevent their manufacturers from claiming medicinal/healing properties that the product might have, and allow only limited health statements. But great demand for these products has created massive publication attributing medicinal indications for products whose quality, efficacy and safety have neither been examined nor proven according to accepted medical criteria.
We review the regulation and supervision of natural health products in Israel and other developed countries and find a broad range of opinions about natural health products. They range from acceptance as conventional drugs reimbursable by the health insurance, as in Switzerland and Germany, to their status as dietary supplements requiring no significant authorization or supervision, as in the USA.
Analysis of the current situation in Israel and the western world would indicate that some natural health products do possess pharmacological activity and therefore manufacturers should be allowed to make limited claims for specified therapeutic properties. A stricter set of registration regulations are needed for proof of safety, efficacy and quality of these products, but more lenient than those for registering a pharmaceutical product.