A German committee that issues advice on prescription drugs has recommended that the government make kava, the popular herbal remedy, a prescription-only product, reports Reuters Health.
The herb is used as a sedative, muscle relaxant and diuretic, but alarming reports of severe liver damage in more than 20 people have prompted the government to seek advice. There has been at least one death and three liver transplants carried out in Germany as a result of the drug's usage.
In November last year, Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) tried to ban the sale of kava but the ruling was appealed by the German Medicines Manufacturers' Association (BAH), which represents nearly 50 kava producers.
Ulrich Hagemann, deputy head of BfArM's pharmacovigilance unit in Bonn, told Reuters Health that by recommending that kava become a prescription-only drug, they would not have to impose a total ban on the product.
Hagemann said that the recommendation would now be sent to the Health Ministry, which has the authority to oppose it, but is expected to accept the advice and make kava a prescription-only drug in Germany from 1 July 2002.
The recommendations will have a profound effect on the kava industry, and former bans in Germany and France have prompted the scheduling of discussions on the crisis at a forthcoming conference in Vanuatu. The Pacific Herbs Business Forum will seek to address kava's health-related issues.
The Forum is being sponsored by the Brussels based Centre for Development of Enterprise in association with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Netherlands Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Co-operation.