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The MHRA, in conjunction with authorities in Hong Kong, has also found weight loss remedies contaminated with withdrawn obesity drug sibutramine and erectile dysfunction treatment sildenafil (Viagra), and hair loss products containing excessive levels of mercury.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

Higher levels of some metals in e-cigarette smoke

8 September 2014 Research

news image

Scientists call for regulators to help clear smoke and mirrors surrounding vaping safety

Isotope effect produces new type of chemical bond

22 October 2014 Research

news image

Evidence emerges for vibrational bond first proposed 30 years ago

Most Commented

Higher levels of some metals in e-cigarette smoke

8 September 2014 Research

news image

Scientists call for regulators to help clear smoke and mirrors surrounding vaping safety

UCLA spent $4.5 million on legal costs in Sangji case

20 October 2014 News and Analysis

news image

University defends spending in case brought against chemistry professor, highlighting $20 million investment in lab safety