Written Answers. - Natural Health Industry.

John McGuinness

Question:

606 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in establishing a regulatory framework for the natural health industry as requested by its representatives; if the issue regarding St. John's Wort has been resolved to the extent of making the product freely available here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20197/00]

I, as Minister for Health and Children, have proposed that a joint consultative forum be held by my Department with as many of the representative bodies of the various therapeutic providers of non-conventional medicine to discuss the issue of statutory registration. A date for this forum has yet to be decided, but is likely to occur before the end of the year.

The Department is currently working with professional bodies on a system of statutory registration for allied health professionals, recognised paramedical grades who hold formal third level qualifications, ministerially prescribed under law and required for appointment in the public health service. This scheme may provide a model of registration for non-conventional medicine, addressing complex areas of concern, finance, protection of title, professional representation, fitness to practice, and the legal implications of establishing registration boards for each member profession to enforce these functions. However, any system of regulation must await the introduction of statutory registration for the health professionals.

In the interim, the Department encourages the various therapeutic groups to develop mechanisms for informing the general public of the availability of services from reputable therapists and to establish their own voluntary regulatory structures in preparation for a scheme of statutory registration. Many have embraced this form of self-regulation and adopted codes of practice/ ethics, professional profile portfolio based registers, complaints procedures and insurance schemes within their own membership facility.

There has been no change in the regulatory status of medicinal products containing St. John's Wort since 1 January 2000.

With a view to establishing a regulatory framework for traditional and alternative medicinal products, the Irish Medicines Board has appointed a project manager for herbal medicines and has sought submissions on the regulation of such products by 30 October 2000.