Health watchdog to ban herbal remedy

Health watchdogs in the United Kingdom are preparing to ban kava-kava, the popular herbal remedy for anxiety that has been linked to liver damage and death.

A voluntary agreement with manufacturers and retailers to keep it off the shelves, adopted last December, has not been universally followed so the British government’s medicines control agency (MCA) and food standards agency are preparing the way for a legal prohibition. But they cannot advise ministers to act until a formal consultation period ends in September.

The Guardian has reported how some shops have defied the request to suspend sales following reports of liver damage and deaths, particularly in Germany and Switzerland.

The MCA says it is aware worldwide of 68 cases of liver problems with suspected links to kava-kava, which is derived from a member of the pepper family in the South Pacific islands. These include cases of liver failure that have led to six transplants and three deaths.

Three people in Britain are believed to have had problems after consuming kava-kava.
Health care professionals have been advised to consider whether kava-kava might be implicated in new cases.

Alasdair Breckenridge, who chairs the committee on safety of medicines advising the MCA, said: “Given the safety concerns ... our advice is that it would be prudent for anyone taking such products to stop taking them.”—(c) Guardian Newspapers

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