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"The New Zealand dietary supplement industry welcomes the Ministry of Health's review of the evidence surrounding the herb Piper methysticum, commonly known as Kava," says Ron Law, Executive Director of the National Nutritional Foods Association. (09-832 4773)

"Kava has been used safely for thousand of years," says Ron Law, "so it is a bit of a mystery that it has suddenly become a problem, especially in Germany and Switzerland; two countries with such strong pharmaceutically based regulations."

The NNFA agrees with the Ministry of Health's early assessment that the evidence of liver damage eminating from Germany and Switzerland, and indeed the USA, is very poor quality.

Three of 25 reports being analysed in the USA include;

An attempted suicide by a 13 year old girl; she took 8-10 tablets, experienced "deep somulence [sic]" and recovered on her own;

A case of someone who was using up to 300 pills per day (and experienced the classic skin lesions);

and a 52 year old woman who was hospitalized with congestive heart failure, acute renal failure, anasarca (edema) with 100 pound weight gain, hyperkalemia and metabolic alkalosis and who was subject to biopsy which confirmed liver cirrhosis; her medical history included hypothyroidism and exposure to hepatitis C, and it was noted that she consumed 1-2 alcoholic beverages daily with binge drinking on weekends; it was also recorded that she took 4 supplement products each day (MSM; a "green" product; a multi-glandular product; and alfalfa tablets) and occasionally took 5-6 other supplements, including kava; additional supplement and 3 OTC drugs were also listed.

"Nevertheless, as a responsible industry, a full evidence-based risk analysis is currently being undertaken to assess the actual risk to consumers," said Ron Law (

According to the Ministry of Health's 1997 Nutrition Survey, 60% of New Zealanders consume dietary supplements. "There has never been a death as a result of the consumption of a legal dietary supplement in New Zealand," says Ron Law.

Recent analysis of New Zealand government sources reveals that dietary supplements in New Zealand are exceedingly safe. Highly preventable pharmaceutical medicine adverse reactions are over 40,000 times more likely to cause a fatality in New Zealand than dietary supplements. Drug adverse reactions, whether preventable or not, are over 90,000 times more likely to cause death than a legal dietary supplement [data available on request]; kava dietary supplements sold in New Zealand are legal.

There have been no reports of liver related adverse reactions to Kava in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, or the UK; it is used extensively as a dietary supplement in all of these countries.

The New Zealand dietary supplement industry has committed itself to regulation driven by evidence based risk analysis and is continuing to work closely with health officials to ensure that consumers continue to have access to safe dietary supplements in New Zealand.


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