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   Sep 14

Plan to help us decipher which vitamins and herbal remedies actually work

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is looking to reform the complementary medicine industry. Photo: Jennifer SooThe vitamins and supplements you buy could soon have a government tick of approval if they are found to be evidence-based.
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The Therapeutic Goods Administration is looking to reform regulation on complementary medicines so consumers have a better understanding of whether the billions we spend on them is giving us any health benefit.

At present, a listing on the n Register of Therapeutic Goods only means the product is safe, not that it delivers its stated claims.

But a review into regulation of the industry has recommended companies apply for approval if research finds its product effective.

Monash University Associate Professor Dr Ken Harvey said the change would make a world leader by building trust in the industry.

“This would greatly advance the future of complementary medicine if it gets implemented,” he said.

“[At the moment], there is no assurance of efficacy. There is no assurance that the product works. They can make whatever claims they like.”

It comes after a Choice investigation found one in three n pharmacists recommend alternative medicines that have little or no scientific evidence of working.

Four Corners also aired its own investigation into the complementary medicine industry on Monday night, which found seven out of every 10 ns take some form of vitamin or supplement.

The TGA released a consultation paper on Tuesday seeking feedback into the review.

The Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation also recommended providing protections for companies that fund evidence-based research so that it can’t be copycatted.

Dr Harvey said this would encourage more clinical trials as companies would be safeguarded against having their researched ripped off to sell similar products.

Another recommendation was to eliminate the ability of companies to make unsubstantiated or extravagant claims by imposing a limited list of claimed health benefits a company could put down when making an application to the n Register of Therapeutic Goods.

Dr Harvey said there was a push back from industry lobbyists that argue it would put n companies at a commercial disadvantage.

However, he said although there could still be room for the system to be gamed, it was a step forward in improving the industry.

Complementary Medicines was contacted for comment.

The consultation closes on March 28.

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