Alternative Labelling: “Untested”, “Unproven”, or Just Plain “Bullshit”?

It seems today’s dawn could herald in the TGA making a move to be pro-active in ensuring consumers are informed about the products they are purchasing.

Under “active consideration” is a new disclaimer that will be required to be used on at least, “alternative” remedies.

Contrary to popular belief, the TGA does not assess the efficacy of products that are “AUST L” labeled, in fact, “Sponsors” – That is, Distributors or Manufacturers are only required to declare they “hold evidence”.

They do not need to show it to anyone.

Further, there is a legal loop-hole that allows many products to be sold without being listed on the Therapeutic Goods Register. “Sponsors”, in this case, includes advertises and private practitioners, such as Homeopaths and “Traditional Chinese Medicine” practitioners may produce and sell products simply by declaring “Traditional Use” – again, no evidence required.

Marketing has played a huge part in encouraging Australians to buy unproven products; claims like “It’s Natural” spring to mind. It has been a tag-line that’s been exploited because of its “feel good” ring to it. Natural does NOT always mean good, and it certainly does not mean it works.

There is of course then, then use of “Weasel words”, subtle wording that make it appear that they make a claim, when legally, they do not. This is a popular way many “Alt-Med” advertisers get away with pushing nonsense to the public.

An article in today’s The Age (Push to label most alternative medicines as ‘untested’) states:

The TGA development follows the release this week of a report by the Australian National Audit Office which revealed surveys showing the agency had failed for several years to counter effectively widespread use of deceptive and misleading advertising of complementary and alternative medicines.

In 2003, a survey found that about 52% of Australian Households use some form or alternative medicines, products or services regularly; There are over 10,000 “Alternative” and “Complementary” products on the register, and almost none of them scrutinized for efficacy.

It’s not surprising then, that an Industry that was worth $800m in 2003 and is now estimated to be worth over $2 Billion Annually is strongly opposed to the new labels. An enforced “Untested” label is a great way of encouraging people making claims about their products to back it up with evidence.

Each year there is a massive amount of money being literally pissed away as more and more “Alternative” remedies find their way on to shelves (like Coles Supermarkets) by what seems to be an endless sea of bullshit claims.

This proposal is a welcomed potential win for Reason.

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