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The government is considering revising approval standards for nonprescription herbal medicines sold at drugstores for the first time in 30 years, officials said Monday.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry hopes in the process to promote the use of herbal medicines among the public, especially the elderly, to maintain health and curb lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

A ministry research team is reviewing the descriptions of the effects of herbal medicines to update them, intending to include wording about so-called contemporary diseases, including allergy-related disorders, the ministry officials said.

Other “contemporary” health problems the team may include on the labels are nasal allergies, “frozen shoulders” and neck sprains.

The ministry intends to revise the approval standards used for such medicines in or after fiscal 2005 based on a draft the team plans to compile within fiscal 2004.

The ministry has approved 210 herbal medicines for sale without prescription at drugstores under the current standards, which were adopted in 1974.

The ministry’s study panel on generic medicines in November 2002 urged the ministry to revise the standards, saying they no longer meet the needs of consumers against the backdrop of Japan’s aging population and changes in living conditions.

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