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Scientists to Discuss Herbal Medicine Quality

PULLMAN, Wash. — The lack of quality control and uniformity is a growing problem for the rapidly expanding herbal medicine and food supplement industry.

Research to help the industry overcome these problems will be the subject of a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Seattle, Feb. 12-17.

Dr. Moris L. Silber, a medical doctor and researcher in Washington State University’s natural resource sciences department, is co-organizer of a panel on Plant-Derived Medicinal and Dietary Supplements: Quality, Efficacy and Safety. He will be the panel’s first speaker.

Silber says the panel will call attention to the rapidly growing natural products industry and its need for scientifically valid quality control and standardization for herbal medicines and nutraceutical preparations.

“The natural products industry is characterized by an enormous gap of scientific information about the interactions of a variety of important biologically active constituents,” Silber said.

“The medical establishment has been calling upon the natural products industry, National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to set better standards, enhance quality, address safety issues and provide scientific evidence that botanical preparations can in fact deliver the benefits they claim,” Silber said.

Other speakers will be Joseph M. Betz, director, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.; Ikhlas A. Khan, director of the FDA Program at the National Center for Natural Products Research, RIPS School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi, and Gary Wells Elmer, a medicinal chemistry professor at the University of Washington.

Silber will give an overview of practical, easy to use techniques for assessing the quality, efficacy and safety of plant-derived medicinal and dietary products currently being developed at WSU.

Betz will talk about scientists’ efforts to develop reliable and accurate data that manufacturers and regulators can use for quality control and enforcement of regulations.

Khan will talk about ways the industry can solve quality problems by applying data from analysis of plants from which the materials are taken. Scientists have found, for instance, that the quality of substances can be affected by seasonal variations, cultivation methods, manufacturing processes and other factors.

Elmer will discuss problems associated with interactions between herbal food supplements and prescription drugs.

Silber received a medical degree from Medical Pediatric Institute, Leningrad, USSR, in 1964. He was a scientific advisor and nutrition consultant to the USSR National and Olympic Teams from 1976-1989 and held the same position with the USA Olympic Women’s Swimming Team in 1995. He is a fellow of the US National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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