UK regulator warning over online herbal remedies


The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has found that several herbal medicines available over the internet are contaminated with prescription-only drugs or toxic heavy metals. As such, the agency is warning prospective users to avoid these products.

The alerts include an asthma remedy found to contain dexamethasone, which is a prescription-only glucocorticoid used to treat auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. While it is a member of the same class as steroids such as betamethasone and fluticasone, which are used to treat asthma, dexamethasone is not approved for asthma treatment, and can have potentially dangerous side effects.

The MHRA, in conjunction with authorities in Hong Kong, has also found weight loss remedies contaminated with withdrawn obesity drug sibutramine and erectile dysfunction treatment sildenafil (Viagra), and hair loss products containing excessive levels of mercury.

The warnings come weeks after the end of the ‘sell-through’ period, which allowed retailers to clear stocks of herbal remedies that have not been granted safety licenses permitting them to be sold in the UK under tightened regulations on herbal medicines. Although these products are not authorised for sale in the UK, they are readily available online.


Related Content

What are you afraid of?

29 October 2013 Feature

news image

The public’s mistrust of ‘chemicals’ will take great efforts to repair. Katharine Sanderson looks at the ‘c’-word

Rediscovered Native American remedy kills poxvirus

21 March 2012 News Archive

news image

Herbal medicine used to treat smallpox in the 19th century found to halt viral replication in vitro

Most Read

Antimicrobial resistance will kill 300 million by 2050 without action

16 December 2014 News and Analysis

news image

UK report says resistance will cost global economy $100 trillion

Cutting edge chemistry in 2014

10 December 2014 Research

news image

We take a look back at the year's most interesting chemical science stories

Most Commented

A bad business

19 December 2014 Critical Point

news image

Targets and assessments can boost productivity at universities – but only if they do not stifle creativity and alienate the...

Chemistry behind the ‘blue man’ unlocked

1 November 2012 Research

news image

Biochemical model suggests that silver ions, not nanoparticles, cause a rare skin complaint