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6 Comments

  1. 1

    Altakoi

    I agree that the complementary industry gets away with a fair bit in Australia. It has the protests-too-much approach to saying “look how terribly regulated we are, oh poor us this happens almost nowhere else in the world” but really what they get is a government endorsement with a very light regulatory touch.

    The debate from the pro-complementary side tends to focus on whether there should be a privileged standard of effiacy – the large clinical trials required for prescription medicines. The issue on which the industry is silent is that, whether you believe random herbs are therapeutic or not, there is a major problem with the product actually containing what it says it does. Complementary products are regularly adulterated with prescription medicines, plants known to be harmful or heavy metals. There is no argument for the efficacy of these products which justifies bad manufacturing standards.

    An issue with the governments courage on these matters is the actual legislative framework the organisation works with – the Therapeutic Goods Act. This is not, as people might expect it to be, a Public Health Act for pharmaceuticals. It contains no legislative basis for precautionary action, and hides most enforcement powers behind weasel words lie “safe and effective” which are almost un-dis-provable in administrative law. This means the organisation has no teeth in any but the most extreme cases of public risk, and even then the administrative lawyers have then tied up on proceedure.

    What would really help, I think, would be explicitly public health related enforcement powers in the TG Act, similar to those in most infectious disease clauses of Public Health Act which allow an officer to take, for example, action to alleviate a health hazard. No environmental health person has to prove cockroaches should not be in the pudding, or that this is a potential threat to public health, or provide 28 days to respond before taking action. Neither should the TGA have to.

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  2. 2

    simon.chapman

    The complementary medicine industry should be called the “Expensive Urine Generating Industry” because that’s about the only outcome the great majority of it produces. Everyone should read Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science” http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Science-Ben-Goldacre/dp/000728487X/?tag=bs0b-21 for an excoriating critique of the worst of it.
    When I ws last in London, I herad about a marvellous demonstration by some sceptics outside the Homeopathic Hospital in Bloomsbury where they were sculling whole bottles of homeopathic medicine to the great amusement of the crowd.

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  3. 3

    piggle

    Thankyou for raising this important issue and giving it some, “airtime”. I sincerely hope the TGA effects some changes – at the moment – utterly hopeless. And some of the comments made by TGA staff are bewildering.
    We need a level playing-field where all prospective medicines are treated the same.

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  4. 4

    Bill Parker

    Never mind sculling whole bottles of homeopathic medicines, what about the plethora of osteoarthritis “treatment” products on the market?

    There are no guidelines as to dosage, no information about product sources, no information about possible contamination from animal (abattoir waste?) derived products and so on.

    Glucosamine. Good or bad or ineffectual? All three

    Chrondrotin. About the same. Both anecdotal.

    There is an absolute need for double blinded large trials on these products.

    I was made aware of one NZ produced product made from green lipped mussels that was about as safe as one could get considering the data supplied by the manufacturer. But when the video showing an “expert” was advising the consumption of 10 capsules a day for three months, I gave up.

    At the absolute very least we need dose response data. We live in a world where more is better. Swallowing 5 grams of glucosamine a day doesn’t not leave me with a confident feeling.

    Reply

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