New audit scheme prepares Chinese medicine firms for stricter standards

An initiative to improve the quality of Chinese medicine in the UK has been launched.

Under the Approved Suppliers Scheme, companies which supply herbal ingredients or products will be audited by an independent auditor with substantial experience in the pharmaceutical industry. The new scheme focuses on companies that supply raw ingredients (such as dried herbs or concentrated powders) to practitioners or manufactured products, whether made in the UK or imported.

The audit covers a range of aspects and some standards are the same as those required of pharmaceutical companies. There are additional requirements relevant to herbal suppliers, such as labelling ingredients in Chinese and in Latin, and checks to ensure that no banned or endangered plants are stocked.

The Approved Suppliers Scheme has been set up by the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, the leading professional organisation for the Chinese medicine sector in the UK (RCHM). The RCHM established an Approved Suppliers Scheme in 2004, the first of its kind, and the revised scheme strengthens the original requirements. It is expected that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulation Agency (MHRA) will impose a similar audit for herbal suppliers to coincide with the statutory regulation of herbalists, which is due in the autumn of 2013.

Emma Farrant, ceo of the RCHM says, “This scheme aims to prepare herbal suppliers for the stricter standards that will be required when statutory regulation is introduced. We are encouraging all Chinese medicine companies in the UK to enrol so the sector is fully prepared.”

Although new requirements for manufactured herbal medicines came into force in 2011, these do not cover the whole sector; the Approved Suppliers Scheme aims to ensure that all aspects of the herbal medicine sector are as robust as possible.

RCHM says that two suppliers have so far met the required standards for the Approved Suppliers Scheme – Mayway and Phoenix – and three companies are awaiting audits. Another company was audited but has been asked to address a number of issues before it can be accepted on to the scheme.

The RCHM estimates that there are around 20 herbal suppliers who would be eligible for an audit.

RCHM is offering training to help more companies to meet the scheme’s standards.