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Echinacea shouldn’t be given to children under 12, says Medicines Board

Following a review of echincea’s safety and effectiveness, the IMB is advising against children using it.

File: The flower of the echinacea plants.
File: The flower of the echinacea plants.
Image: Amy Sancetta/AP/Press Association Images

THE IRISH MEDICINES Board has advised against children under 12 using echinacea.

Children’s herbal product containing echinacea will no longer be recommended for use among the under-12s due to the lack of scientific data to support their use, the IMB said.

The advice comes after the IMB’s review of the available date on the safety and effectiveness of echinacea as well as guidance from the European Medicines Agency’s Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products.

The IMB concluded that echinacea can be associated with rare side effects – mainly allergic reactions, which can be severe in some cases.

The organisation says it is contacting retailers “and others within the supply chain” to inform them of its advice and to recommend the withdrawal from sale of children’s products containing echinacea.

Adult echinacea products are not affected by the IMB advice. However, while some adult products contain information on children’s dosages, children should also not use these products. The IMB expects adult product information to change in the coming months to reflect its advice on the use of echinacea among the under-12s.

IMB director of human products authorisation Ann O’Connor said that this is not a serious safety issue and that the advice being issued is “precautionary in nature”:

This is a prudent measure which is being taken following  evaluation of data availab.e Our view is that there are potential risks associated with the use of echinacea-containing products in children under 12 years of age and there is limited evidence of benefit in this age group.

As a result, we are recommending that they should no longer be used. It is important to carefully check the ingredient list on a herbal product and if it contains echinacea, it should not be given to children.

“As with all medicines, the goal is to maximise the benefits of use and reduce the risks,” she added.

Retailers are being advised to remove stocks of children’s echinacea herbal medicines from sale and return them to the supplier. They are also being advised to inform people buying adult echinacea products of the IMB’s advice concerning their use among children.

Until last year, products of this nature were not fully subject to regulatory requirement. But upon the implementation of the European Health Medicines Directive in Ireland in 2011, the IMB has carried out a review of herbal products on the Irish market.

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