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Herbal Medicines in spotlighted with appointment

Media Release
29 November 2005

Herbal Medicines in spotlight with new appointment at The University of Auckland

The use, safety and effectiveness of herbal and complementary medicines in New Zealand will come under professional scrutiny with the appointment of Dr Joanne Barnes as Associate Professor in Herbal Medicines at The University of Auckland’s School of Pharmacy in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

The appointment will mean the start of research activities, led by Associate Professor Barnes, into a subject about which generally there is a lack of good-quality information.

“At present there is very little known about how widely these medicines are used in New Zealand, and the benefits and risks of using them,” she says.

Associate Professor Barnes has been teaching and researching in the areas of herbal and complementary medicines since 1996, most recently at the School of Pharmacy, University of London since gaining her PhD in pharmacy there in 2001.

Her areas of interest include traditional Chinese medicines, adverse reactions to herbal medicines, and consumer behaviours towards and use of herbal medicines.

Associate Professor Barnes says the New Zealand situation is quite similar to that of the United Kingdom, where until recently there was very little regulation surrounding herbal practitioners and herbal medicines.

“Although many herbal medicines are available within the conventional healthcare system, for example, sold in pharmacies, others are used completely outside this. In particular there has been an explosion in the availability of traditional Chinese herbal remedies over recent years.

“There is reasonable evidence that certain herbal medicines can be very effective but, as with all medicines, there are also safety issues surrounding their use. Many people seem to think that because they are natural there won’t be any adverse reactions but this isn’t necessarily so. Also, with certain unregulated herbal medicines, there are important issues with their quality, which also have implications with respect to safety. ”

Associate Professor Barnes brings considerable international expertise to the new position. In addition to being the principal author of a Herbal Medicines text book published by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in the UK, she has written widely on the topic for professional and consumer publications. Dr Barnes is also an honorary consultant to the World Health Organisation’s Sweedish-based international drug safety monitoring programme which identifies possible herbal safety concerns from adverse reaction reports received from over 70 countries worldwide, including New Zealand, plus she has served in both the UK and Canada on government regulatory and advisory groups on herbal and complementary medicines.

Prior to starting an academic career, Associate Professor Barnes worked as a pharmacist for several years in the UK. She worked in New Zealand for two years in the 1990s at Adis International Ltd, a pharmaceutical publishing house.

ENDS

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