Green tick’ idea for herb treat­ments

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Adam Cress­well Health ed­i­tor

AGREEN tick sim­i­lar in ap­pear­ance to the Na­tional Heart Foun­da­tion’s well-known red tick could be ap­plied to com­ple­men­tary medicines that have ev­i­dence to back their claims, to help con­sumers pick which treat­ments work best.

The sym­bol has been sug­gested to the fed­eral Gov­ern­ment as a po­ten­tial so­lu­tion to claims of du­bi­ous prod­ucts that have lit­tle ev­i­dence to back them.

Like the Heart Foun­da­tion tick, the green sym­bol would only be avail­able to com­pa­nies that opted in to the sys­tem, and paid a fee to sub­mit prod­ucts to in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment.

The pro­posal was put to Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Health Sen­a­tor Jan McLu­cas last month, af­ter a study in the Med­i­calJour­nalof Aus­tralia sparked re­newed claims that reg­u­la­tion of com­ple­men­tary medicines is in­ef­fec­tive — cit­ing weight-loss herbal treat­ments.

The study’s lead au­thor, Ken Har­vey, a long­stand­ing cam­paigner for tighter reg­u­la­tion of com­ple­men­tary medicines, said at the time that the study high­lights the fact that there’s a big prob­lem in reg­u­la­tion’’.

An ad­junct se­nior re­search fel­low at the school of pub­lic health at La Trobe Univer­sity, Har­vey said the claims made for the weight­loss prod­ucts were of­ten not in ac­cord with the lim­ited sci­en­tific ev­i­dence avail­able’’. Har­vey told Week­end Health there was cer­tainly in­ter­est in some sort of tick . . . that might as­sist con­sumers to bet­ter se­lect ev­i­dence-based prod­ucts’’.

There’s cer­tainly in­ter­est in that from a num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­di­vid­ual prac­ti­tion­ers and com­ple­men­tary medicines man­u­fac­tur­ers,’’ he said. Clearly, there’s con­cern that a green tick might say too much to con­sumers — it might im­ply that things work bet­ter (than oth­ers), or had fewer side-ef­fects.

There’s more work that needs to be done on how we can clearly com­mu­ni­cate risks and ben­e­fits. But there seems to be a feel­ing that there are is­sues to be pur­sued.’’

McLu­cas has pre­vi­ously in­di­cated she took the con­cerns aired in the orig­i­nal MJA re­port (2008;188:21-25) se­ri­ously. She said at the time she had asked the TGA for an anal­y­sis of the cur­rent process of ap­proval of ad­ver­tis­ing ma­te­rial to en­sure con­sumers were pro­tected from mis­lead­ing or un­sub­stan­ti­ated claims. Har­vey con­cedes a tick pro­gram faced var­i­ous prob­lems, in­clud­ing the fact that sci­en­tific ev­i­dence, by its very na­ture, keeps chang­ing.

I would have said that glu­cosamine was a clas­sic ex­am­ple of a prod­uct that might get a tick, but the latest trial — from the US Na­tional Cen­tre for Com­ple­men­tary and Al­ter­na­tive Medicine — showed it to have no ben­e­fit, ex­cept in a sub-group of pa­tients.

There are a hand­ful of things where there’s good ev­i­dence (that they work), and they should be sup­ported.’’

The in­dus­try group Com­ple­men­tary Health­care Coun­cil is strongly op­posed to Har­vey’s re­forms, which in­clude a dis­claimer on prod­uct la­bels to ex­plain that the list­ing’’ process used by the Ther­a­peu­tic Goods Ad­min­is­tra­tion to ap­prove most al­ter­na­tive prod­ucts does not mean that the prod­ucts have been as­sessed for ef­fi­cacy by the TGA.

The CHC’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Tony Lewis says the pro­posal to scrap the list­ing process and as­sess com­ple­men­tary medicines for ef­fi­cacy flies in the face of sound, ef­fi­cient and eco­nomic risk-based reg­u­la­tory prac­tice’’.

The in­dus­try is not united on this point. One com­ple­men­tary medicines maker that sup­ports Har­vey’s pro­pos­als is Flordis Herbal Medicines, which is not a CHC mem­ber.

Flordis’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Nigel Pol­lard says his com­pany only sells prod­ucts for which the ev­i­dence is strong, and says there’s quite a lot of con­cern’’ at the ex­ces­sive mar­ket­ing claims made by some prod­ucts. In ef­fect, the sys­tem at the mo­ment is that the in­dus­try is trusted to hold ev­i­dence to sup­port its claims, and a lot of peo­ple be­lieve, rightly or wrongly, that the ev­i­dence isn’t held . . . and that raises a ques­tion-mark over the whole listed’ cat­e­gory,’’ Pol­lard said.

At the mo­ment it’s not pos­si­ble for the con­sumer to se­lect a prod­uct based on ev­i­dence . . . The tick idea, I would imag­ine, would be quite well ac­cepted by peo­ple in the in­dus­try who wanted to do more re­search.’’

Some other ex­perts think the calls for tighter reg­u­la­tion are not war­ranted.

Pro­fes­sor Alan Ben­sous­san, di­rec­tor of the re­cently cre­ated Na­tional In­sti­tute of Com­ple­men­tary Medicine, con­cedes that some mak­ers are push­ing the lim­its in terms of the sorts of claims that can be made. But my view is not that the reg­u­la­tory model is weak — it prob­a­bly just needs to be able to mon­i­tor and re­spond a bit more than at the mo­ment’’.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.