The Section will provide a forum for formal and informal interactions among investigators from around the world involved in research on the isolation, identification, standardization, efficacy, safety and mechanism of action of natural health products.
We believe that it is timely that IUPHAR establishes a Section on Natural Health Products to promote a specific area relevant to the field of pharmacology and to meet needs of the scientific community and the general public. For a very long time, foods and drugs have been routinely defined in developed countries by the Food and Drug Act or a similar act. Foods are normally defined as any article manufactured, sold or represented as food or drink for human beings, including chewing gums and any ingredient that may be mixed with food for any purpose whatsoever. Drugs are defined as any substance or mixture of substances manufactured, sold or represented for use in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease or disorder or abnormal physical state. In many countries, a drug should have a Drug Identification Number (DIN) which attests that the drug has gone through a process of evaluation by the regulatory agency of the state.
Natural products have now gained prominence as key dietary supplements for the maintenance of good health. They are often referred to as natural health care products, and there tends to be a belief that natural health products are safe and mostly devoid of side effects. However, the increased used of natural products for health benefits is often not substantiated by appropriate research. The popularity of natural health products has also led to a considerable number of unsubstantiated claims, and in isolated cases, substandard quality control of the product. Hence, many informed citizens from developed countries have begun to express concern about the lack of control for health-related claims, safety and effectiveness of natural health products, especially herbal remedies. The lack of unbiased information on the effectiveness of these products and issues such as quality control and margin of safety have led several countries to develop regulatory mechanisms for the advertising and sales of these materials.
A natural health product is normally defined as a naturally occurring substance which can be used for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of a disease. These materials can also be used to restore or correct organic functions in humans, in order to maintain or promote health. A natural health product can originate from a plant, algae, fungus, non-animal material or an extract of these materials. In most countries, the definition of natural health products may also include minerals, trace elements, vitamins, amino acids, essential fatty acids and animal parts and products. Several disciplines of complementary medicine may use these or related products in their prescriptions; these disciplines include traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine and ayurveda medicine.
In Australia, the vast majority of the natural health products, including herbs, are regulated as therapeutic goods. In Canada, natural health products are marketed under the auspices of the Natural Health Product Directorate. In the EU, natural health products with health-related claims are regulated as drugs, whereas those without claims are marketed as food. In the United States, these materials can be sold as dietary supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which establishes a minimum standard of practice for the manufacturing and advertising of these materials.
In view of the importance and the high number of potential users of natural health products in the next decade, IUPHAR needs to be involved in research on the isolation of active components, identification, standardization, efficacy, safety and mechanism of action of these materials. A section of IUPHAR involving scientists covering the broad range of these domains would provide the opportunity for the membership of IUPHAR to advance this exciting field in pharmacology.
The aims of the section are as follows:
A) To increase awareness of the importance of Natural Health Products related to human health. New approaches to study the use, efficacy, and safety of these materials are encouraged.
B) To promote the exchange of scientific information among members of the Section and the entire membership of IUPHAR. This will be achieved in part through newsletters and other means of communication. The Section will also disseminate progress in the area through sub-specialty meetings and by symposia at major international meetings and workshops.
C) To stimulate interest in new areas of investigation, especially in standardization and determination of mechanism of action. The section will promote interaction between basic and clinical research of natural health products.
D) To encourage interaction between “modern” scientists and those individuals holding the knowledge of traditional medicine, be they indigenous or part of healing systems such as Traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic, Arabo-muslim, or other systems of health improvement. The field of ethnopharmacology should be recognized for its wealth and value, and encouraged by IUPHAR to develop high research standards.
E) To address the crucial component of product quality in natural product research as a top priority, including botanical identification and phytochemical characterization. The section will address the major underlying source of contradictory or controversial results on the safety and efficacy of natural health products, and advocate establishing and promoting standard procedures and guidelines for natural product research to ensure rigorous scientific criteria of modern evidence-based medicine.
F) To encourage young investigators to attend IUPHAR sponsored meetings and other meetings on Natural Health Products.
G) To support the objectives and goals of IUPHAR as a means to advance the pharmacology of natural health products worldwide. In particular the section will promote study in the developing regions of the world especially in Africa, Latin America, South East Asia and Eastern Europe, where natural health products are used predominantly and progress in research may be slowed by a lack of efficient information channels.
Membership of the Section shall consist of any member of a society or other body that is associated with IUPHAR. Members of other professional societies may also be considered by the Membership Committee of the Section.
Nominees for membership shall be proposed by at least one member of the Natural Health Product Section, who is not a member of the Membership Committee at the time of nomination. Nominations will be acted upon once per year at a time to be designated.
A) Executive Committee
The composition of the Executive Committee of the Section should reflect the fact that IUPHAR is an international organization with broad representation. The selection process for the period 2006-2010 will be overseen by the President of IUPHAR or a designate.
After the initial period 2006-2010, the designated Executive Committee will be followed by an elected Executive Committee which shall consist of the Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and up to six (6) Councillors. Nominees will be from the members of the Section. An individual would be elected by a simple majority and would serve for four (4) years. The Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer shall be elected from among those members of the Executive Committee of the Section who have served in another capacity for the previous four-year period (2006-2010). In addition two of thecouncillorsmay be reelected.
The Chairperson will oversee the business matters of the Section and will be responsible for reporting at least yearly to the Executive Committee of IUPHAR. The Vice Chairperson shall act in place of the Chairperson and on all matters so designated by the Chairperson. The Secretary will support the Chairperson in execution of the affairs of the Section. The Treasurer will be responsible for the finances of the Section and will prepare a yearly report to the Treasurer of IUPHAR.
Responsibilities of the Executive Committee include, but are not limited to: contribute to the planning of oral presentations, poster sessions, symposia and other aspects of meetings sponsored by IUPHAR, develop means to solicit ideas, and,make recommendations on specific elements of programmes. Approaches to communicate with the membership of the Section and the Union should be developed. This may include publication of a newsletter and/or other means of exchanging information between the Section and IUPHAR or other scientific societies. The Executive Committee should also evaluate future directions to be explored, including developing sources of financial support and establishing new activities.
B) Membership Committee
After initial establishment of the Section and the Executive Committee thereof, election to membership of the Section will be overseen by the Chairperson of the Section or a designate.
As the Section matures, the Membership Committee will be selected from the membership of the Section and will consist of three (3) members, each from a different geographic region or country. The term of service will be four years.
The Membership Committee will be charged with evaluating the qualifications of candidates for membership to the Section.
Decisions by the Membership Committee shall be referred to the Executive Committee for ratification. The Secretary of the Section will notify the Executive Committee of IUPHAR and the candidate of the action. The Executive Council will decide whether there are dues required for membership in the Section.
C) Nominating Committee
The Nominating Committee shall consist of at least three (3) but no more than five (5) members of the Section from different geographic regions or countries, who will be appointed by the Chairperson of the Section. The term of office will be four (4) years.
The Committee will be responsible for making nominations for all elected officers of the Section and shall develop appropriate time schedules for the activities of the Committee. At least in the case of councillors the nominating committee shall provide two alternative names from which to choose.
These bylaws may be amended by a majority in ballots cast by members of the Section. The Section shall be informed at least three (3) months before the impending election by the Chairperson of the Section or a designate. The Chairperson of the Section is empowered to form appropriate ad hoc committee(s) to review proposed changes to the bylaws. Elections may take place either at a face-to-face meeting of the Section or by electronic communication.
LIAISON to the Executive Committee of IUPHAR
The Section shall interact on a formal basis with the Executive Committee of IUPHAR through a liaison person designated by the President of IUPHAR. In addition, a formal report will be made annually to the Secretary General and Treasurer of IUPHAR.