Manly Daily Submission: Unsupported claims about Homeopathy don’t go unnoticed

Fran Sheffield, operator of HomeopathyPlus.com.au has been handed down a raft of sanctions by the Therapeutic Goods Administrations’ Complaint Resolution Panel at a Meeting held 16 June 2011, over an advertisement on her website about a Homeopathic “Flu-Stop” product. The sanctions included a Withdrawal of representations, Withdrawal of advertisement, and a Publication of a retraction.

The TGA CRP found that the product advertisement:
– Did not contain balanced evidence,
– Did not contain adequate evidence for its clams,
– Were likely to arouse unwarranted expectations of the product,
– Abused the trust of consumers,
– Exploited the lack of knowledge of consumers,
– Illegally claimed it was safe,
– Did not present evidence in an accurate manner,
– Did not publish evidence that identified the researcher and financial sponsor,
– Was misleading in its portrayal of a comparison product,
– Referred to serious diseases and conditions without prior approval by the TGA, and
– Failed to include mandatory health warnings on the label of their product.

HomeopathyPlus.com.au
The Retraction that MUST be displayed

The website has 14 days to comply with the recommendations or the matter may be referred to the Secretary for further action. However, this isn’t the first time she’s fallen foul of the law. Despite fines of $55,000, in early 2010 Fran refused to comply with sanctions imposed by the TGA because she ‘disagreed’ with their findings.

The discussion of Homeopathy in the public has recently increased due to deaths in Australia including a cancer sufferer that featured on ABC’s Australia Story who was told to cease her conventional treatment, and a child who’s Homeopath parents refused to administer conventional treatment and attempted to treat the child’s skin disorder with Homeopathic Remedies.

Commercial Homeopathic Remedies are sold through many Health Food Shops and Pharmacies along the Northern beaches, despite Homeopaths insisting that this can not be done – as they claim that remedies are “made for the individual” to match their emotional state, and the medical history. Homeopaths also claim that by shaking an ingredient into a solvent like alcohol or water and diluting it over and over again, (most past the point where there is not a single molecule of the original ingredient) the water remembers what is described as a “vibration” from the original ingredient.

While most preparations include some kind of plant or animal such as wild duck liver or belladonna, some Homeopathic ingredients sold to consumers include the Berlin Wall, Dog Feces, Feline AIDS, and the Colour Indigo.

Despite convoluted descriptions of how a Homeopathic Preparation should be prepared, or handled repeated attempts to demonstrate an effect beyond placebo under robust methods of investigation have failed. It’s a point that some skeptics refer to as a PRATT – Point Raised A Thousand Times. It is well established that as more controls are introduced to prevent researcher, homeopath, or patient bias the apparent effect of Homeopathy swiftly disappears.

Skeptic activism has played a large role in bringing to light the flaws about Homeopathy, both in how Homeopaths  claim their remedies work, and in exposing the exploitation of low quality or irrelevant studies in an attempt to support their practice.

Skeptics argue that it wouldn’t matter if science understood how Homeopathy worked, or how the remedies should be made – If a patient were getting better it is something that can be measured, and it can measured against a placebo to determine it’s efficacy.

During a Lateline segment in 2010, the then Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mark Butler said about the Therapeutic Goods Administration “The Australian community is entitled to expect that an advertising complaints system will be timely, transparent and have teeth and I’m not sure we have that at the moment.

We’re now in a position I hope in the near future – as I have indicated to those players – of publishing options for reform that we think will address all of those issues in one fell swoop.”

Skeptical Activists are still waiting for these reforms, but until then they’re promising to report more breaches they find to the TGA and also to the ACCC, and it’s through the ACCC they hope there will be more traction and willingness to ensure that those who are instilling wrong beliefs in to peoples’ minds are brought to justice.

You can learn more about what advertisements have been found to breach the Therapeutic Good Advertising Code at: http://www.tgacrp.com.au/index.cfm?pageID=13&displayYear=2011

Interesting things include:
Ion Bracelets,
Detox Foot Spas,
SensaSlim’s Weightloss Spray,
Ear Candles, and
Toothpaste products.

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