Vitamin company Swisse calls for self-regulation of complementary medicine advertising

Well they would say that wouldn’t they!

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NSW HCCC Public Warning: Medical Weight Loss Institute (MWI)

Public warning under section 94A of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993Non-evidence Based Weight Loss Programs

See also:

At last! But it took 8 months to get this warning from the NSW HCCC about a now liquidated company.

Meanwhile, what is AHPRA &/or the NSW Medical Council doing about the doctors and the compounding pharmacy involved? For example, Dr Thomas Goyer who used to be weightloss expert at MWI now calls himself a facial rejuvenation expert. Dr Jackie Forrester continues to accept referrals of MWI patients from Australian Custom Pharmaceuticals (the compounding pharmacy).

In addition, new companies have been created by the same people (Geoff Jowett et al.).















As I have said before, the modus operandi of AMI, MWI, AMHC, etc., is the same; target vulnerable consumers (erectile dysfunction, overweight, obese, diminished libido), suggest a similar program (spurious laboratory tests (at taxpayers’ expense) to give a veneer of respectability and justify “individualised” treatment), make extravagant (and unsubstantiated) claims, and sign people up, extracting a large amount of money up-front.

The result is that consumers continue to be ripped off and have their health put at risk from inappropriate investigations and prescribing.

What are the regulators doing? Is this consumer protection?


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MWI now in liquidation; but referrals continue


However, Australian Custom Pharmaceuticals (Acpharm), who supplied the compounded medicines used by MWI, appear to be encouraging patients of MWI to continue to see doctors who were involved with MWI. See below:

From: Matt Chalmers <>
Sent: ######## February 2017 ####
To: ########################
Subject: Program with Dr Forrester

Hello #######,

Thanks for your email and your indication to continue a program with Dr Forrester.

I will forward your details on to her to make a time for a quick consult to get the process rolling again.

We are delighted to continue to utilise the good parts of the MWI program, and replace some of the not-so-good parts.

You will find this time around to be a little kinder to your wallet as you will now be dealing directly with the doctor and the pharmacy.

As you can imagine, the liquidation of MWI has left a bit of a messy state for many people and I thank you in advance for understanding any delays at this time.

We will be in touch with you soon.


Matt Chalmers
Australian Custom Pharmaceuticals

For background see:

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ABC Media Watch – NINE ACA “ADHD breakthrough” – that doesn’t work!

Also, something fishy in the oil on ABC Health Report with Norman Swan RN, Monday 27th February


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2016 Monash University SPHPM Summer Vacation Scholarship Program Award

The School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (SPHPM) Summer Vacation Scholarship Program supports the education of promising tertiary students by providing a means to engage and gain experience in research during the University summer vacation period.

The program is open to students completing degrees in Bachelor of Health Science, Bachelor of Public Health Science, Bachelor of Biomedical Science, or Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. Students work with a senior researcher and their team to undertake a small research project, or contribute to current research in applied clinical and public health.

Since 2011, SPHPM has provided scholarships to approximately 20 students each year to participate in the 4-6 week program. The aim is to give students insight into opportunities in the growing area of public health research and an incentive to pursue higher studies and a career in research or academia.


In 2016, two Monash Biomedical Science/Law Summer Scholarship students (Sasha Hall and Tiana Moutafis) worked with me on our “Whack-a-mole” project.This involved submitting complaints about the promotion of complementary medicines to the regulators, media engagement and a submission to the TGA on regulatory reform.

Each student made a video about their work:


Which one do you think won the award for best presentation?

Additional students involved in the Whack-a-mole” project earlier in the year (along with Sasha and Tiana) also featured in a recent ABC Four Corners program: “Swallowing It: How Australians are spending billions on unproven vitamins and supplements“.

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Complementary medicine vending machines (with coke)… has it all gone too far?

“Vitamin Warehouse is now installing the world’s first refrigerated vitamins and health supplements vending machines with 42inc digitalised android touch screen computers allowing customers direct chat one on one with any of the brands sold in our machines. As well as chat to any of the 4000+ Australian Naturalcare professionals.” From:

See also:

The vending machines sell vitamins, medicines, perfumes and even 99c cans of soft drink.  These screens allow “the purchase of over 1,000 products of Swisse, Blackmores, Nature’s Own, Healthy Care, Centrum, Herron, Cenovis and every other brand not previously possible in any current pharmacy health food store or supermarket retail outlet.”

This highlights a key question that is currently being debated in AJP and was also the subject of a recent ABC 4-Corners program. Are complementary medicines (vitamins, herbals, etc.) normal items of commerce that can be sold anywhere without the availability of professional advice (as they currently are in supermarkets)?

Alternatively, given that these products are currently classified as “medicines” by the TGA, and they can have problems such as side-effects (e.g. allergy, Echinacea) and drug interactions (St John’s wort), should they only be sold where advice from a health professional is available?

Also, will advice from a naturopath in a health food store, or from the 4000+ Australian Naturalcare professionals allegedly available from the android touch screen of the vending machines, be better or worse than that obtained from a pharmacy: see  Also:

This would make another interesting project for Choice mystery shoppers!

Finally, one of the recommendations of the MMD Review (no 48) accepted by the government was undertaking a review of the range of complementary medicinal products, currently listed in the ARTG and subject to regulation under the medicines framework, with a view to ensuring that products that might best be regulated under other regulatory frameworks, without undermining public health and safety, are removed from the auspices of the Act.  Vitamins and minerals have been suggested as one such category of product. But I can’t see how this would not undermine public health and consumer protection.


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ABC 4-Corners Swallowing It: How Australians are spending billions on unproven vitamins and supplements.

FEATURE: What’s the evidence supporting the use of Australia’s favourite supplements? | ABC Health & Science | 13 Feb 2017 –

STUDY Is your pharmacist giving you the right advice? We put pharmacists to the test – what do they recommend for stress and does it work? | CHOICE | Feb 2017 –

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Revive Health for All! Meet at PHA Bhaban, Bangladesh, 10-25 Nov, 2017

The initiative: Zafrullah Chowdhury formulated the idea of an international meeting following the December 2016 decision of the High Court of Delhi to set aside the March 2016 decision of the Indian Central Government banning 344 irrational fixed dose combinations (FDC).

Zafrullah noted that, since the 1985 Nairobi Conference on the Rational Use of Drugs, for every two steps we have advanced we have gone one step backward. A progressive agenda for people-centred, rational and affordable health care continues to be undermined by powerful vested interests.

The latest example is U.S. president elect Donald Trump’s nominee (Tom Price) for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Price has consistently opposed policies aimed at improving the care of vulnerable people. See also  Trump’s pick for the Environmental Protection Agency (Scott Pruitt)!

Zafrullah suggests that it is time for us to gather again globally to confront the forces and ideology that oppose Health for All.

The aim: To bring together like-minded groups such as Health Action International Asia Pacific (HAIAP) and the People’s Health Movement (PHA) to reflect on the vision of the late Dr Halfdan Mahler (1923-2016), share the achievements and setbacks of various countries Essential Drugs and Health for all campaigns and reinforce our commitment to the cause.

Dates: There is agreement that postponing the meeting to 10-25 Nov, 2017 will allow more time for planning, obtain greater participation and find funds. The exact dates are currently being finalised.

VenuePHA Bhaban (where the first People’s Health Assembly was held in December 2000). It has conference facilities and can accommodate 250 persons in a combination of single and double rooms and 8 bedded dormitories. Gono Bishwabidyalay (the People’s University) is a 10-minute walk away and has additional facilities and space.

Funding: People attending will be responsible for funding their travel to and from Dhaka. However, Zafrullah has kindly confirmed that Gonoshasthaya Kendra (GK) will extend full hospitality including airport pick up and drop, modest accommodation, all meals and AV facilities.

International Steering Committee: Zafrullah suggested this should include representation of activists, health workers, researchers/academics and policy planners belonging to different networks, agencies and academic institutions. Shila Kaur and Ken Harvey have been tasked to start this process along with Zafrullah.  Additional members of the steering committee are currently being finalised.

Topics: Planning notes (as at 12 January 2017) are  available. Currently under discussion using the HFA_Bhaban mailing list.

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Comment: Nurofen fine still insufficient; Hangover clinic craziness

Nurofen fine still insufficient

I support call to increase fines for misleading consumers, after Nurofen makers stung a mere $6 million: 

See also: Makers of Nurofen will feel no pain from $6 mil fine:

Hangover clinic craziness 

My comment about this clinic on “The Project”, Dec 15, 2016.

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TGA Consultation: The regulatory framework for advertising therapeutic goods

Information about this consultation is available here.

A submission by my students (Sasha Hall and Tiana Moutafis) and myself is now available.  This may be of interest to people writing their own.

See also: Australia’s regulation of complementary medicines claims is badly flawed.

And: Dodgy claims for complementary medicines? Here’s how the drug watchdog could have more bite

N.B. Submissions closes on 21 December 2016.

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