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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 18:03 GMT
Safety fears over herbal remedy
Kava-kava is available in many health food stores
A popular herbal remedy could be removed from shelves across the UK following fears over its safety.

The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) has written to associations representing herbal practitioners asking them if they will agree to stop selling and supplying Kava-kava temporarily.

It follows the withdrawal of the product in Germany and reports that it has been linked with six cases of liver failure and one death on mainland Europe.

Kava-kava is used extensively as a treatment for anxiety and ailments affecting the bladder and digestive tracts.

The MCA is currently considering whether the product should be banned in the UK but has asked all those who may sell or supply Kava-kava to agree to a temporary withdrawal while it considers its position.

According to the MCA, several UK companies have agreed to voluntarily suspend marketing of the product as a precautionary measure.

Agreement sought

Richard Woodfield, head of herbal policy at the MCA, described the move as responsible.

In a letter sent out on Tuesday, he suggested that withdrawing the product from sale could help protect patients.

"We wish to establish as soon as possible whether there is support from all the relevant trade and practitioner associations for voluntary suspension by their members of the sale and supply to the public of medicines containing Kava-kava.

"If this proposal could be agreed rapidly and was seen to be operating effectively this would allow an opportunity for the MCA to take into account additional evidence before bringing forward regulatory proposals as may be necessary on grounds of public health."

The product has been linked with 30 serious cases of hepatotoxicity in Germany and Switzerland.

These include six cases of liver failure resulting in one death and four patients requiring liver transplants.

There have been no similar reports in the UK and the MCA said its decision was a precautionary measure.

See also:

11 Sep 00 | Festival of science
Herbal medicines undergo UK trials
01 Mar 00 | Health
St John's Wort warning
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