Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is set to approve hundreds of medications with no proven scientific benefits and health professionals around the country are fuming.
The products, which The Sydney Morning Herald reports make claims such as “enrich kidney jing”, “open body orifices” and “moisten dryness in the triple burner” are in response to the government’s call to restrict vitamins and herbal medicines to products they themselves have approved. Health experts are mortified by many of the products on the list given it was meant to include 100 items backed by science. More than 1,000 items are now on the list, with many suggesting they are misleading, harmful and not based on scientific evidence.
Just 14 per cent of the 1,019 items on the latest draft list appear to have any credibility. It’s believed that many of the medications made the cut because of a loophole that allows companies to use the words “traditional medication” and “treatment” even if they’re not scientifically backed.
Dr Michael Gannon, President of the Australian Medical Association says he views the list with “a combination of mirth and great concern”.
“The alternative health industry or complimentary health industry sees Australians empty their pockets to the tune of $5 billion per year,” he told Starts at 60. “The overwhelming majority of these products lack evidence behind their effectiveness.”
He noted than many are actually useless and can be misleading to consumers. “A high proportion are completely ineffective, but they are marketed in a particularly sleek and sophisticated way and the claims they make are often difficult to be questioned by a community that sadly, is often lacking in science and health literacy.”
He described the topic as difficult and said the latest TGA list can give false hope to patients. “It does give a legitimacy to some of these treatments, when historically they said they can’t clamp down because it’s not a therapeutic substance,” he explained. “Of course, now by stepping in, they leave themselves open to criticism and the fact that they’ve ticked off some of these claims. They span the gamut of being genuinely ridiculous to genuinely funny.”
Dr Gannon added that health claims like “softening hardness” and “encouraging water metabolism” didn’t actually mean anything. “Do you ignore the claims of homeopathic remedies of vitamin manufacturers or other alternative health products, or do you allow claims that are, in many cases meaningless, to go through?” he questioned.
He said health professionals have no way of testing some of the apparent benefits of the medications and treatments available, given that they are completely unscientific.
“If you were talking about something that’s not scientific, it is of the occult, if it is holy unorthodox, you can’t test its validity in a scientific way,” he noted. “What they can do, if they make very specific claims, so if they said that it cures cancer, then the TGA has a role, but when the claims it is making are entirely unscientific, like balancing the ‘vata’, that can’t be tested in a scientific way because it’s not a scientific concept.”
He concluded by labelling the industry as “profiteering” and said that he held “concerns about an industry that’s selling hope and not much more than flavoured water”.
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