A medical food for depression?


Neurofolin® (containing 15 mg of L-methylfolate calcium) is a self-declared food for special medical purposes promoted for dietary support of depression management.

Advertisments claim that L-methylfolate is, “an active form of folate known to be deficient in individuals with depressive disorders and helps nutritionally support mood regulation”.

There are listed medicines containing the same ingredient, such as L-5MTHF (ARTG no: 270098), whose TGA indication requirement states: “Product presentation must not imply or refer to mental illnesses, disorders or conditions”.

Mental illnesses such as depression are regarded as restricted representations by the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. Advertisements for therapeutic goods may only refer to such a representation if prior approval has been obtained.

Yet Neurofolin® is self-declared and promoted as, “a food for special medical purposes for the dietary support of depression management” and this claim does not need prior approval (according to FSANZ Standard 2.6.5).

I argue there is insufficient evidence to support the use of L-methylfolate calcium for depression, either as adjunctive, or especially as sole therapy. In my opinion, depression does NOT have special medically determined nutrient requirements for 15 mg of L-methylfolate calcium daily and there is no good evidence that the dietary management of patients with depression cannot be completely achieved without the use of this “food”. In short, Neurofolin® does not meet the requirements of FSANZ Standard 2.6.5.

In addition, I allege the advertising claims made breach Australian Consumer Law (and would breach many sections of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code if this product was classified as a complementary medicine). Furthermore, the regulatory double standard involved is misleading for consumers and unfair to the complementary medicine industry.

I have sent a complaint to the TGA, with a copy to FSANZ, because this is yet another example of problems at the Food-Medicine interface which both the TGA and FSANZ have so-far failed to deal with. I presume the TGA will hand-ball the complaint to the Victorian Health Department because the company involved is based in Victoria. Regardless of who deals with this complaint, I have requested a written determination as to whether Neurofolin® meets the requirements of FSANZ Standard 2.6.5.

Furthermore, this case, and others such as Souvanaid®, Ceretain® and Neurothrive®, raise important questions regarding the ability of product sponsors to self-declare under FSANZ Standard 2.6.5 that their products are beneficial for serious conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease without any independent assessment of all the available evidence. I argue that sponsor self-determination of Standard 2.6.5 is inappropriate and an independent assessment of evidence should be required before a product can be promoted as a “food for special medicinal purposes”.

I have asked that the appropriateness of “food” sponsors to self-declare “food for special medicinal purposes” without independent assessment be addressed by both FSANZ and the TGA.


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About Dr Ken Harvey

Public Health Physician, Medical activitist
This entry was posted in Advertising, Complementary medicine, Food, Medicine policy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A medical food for depression?

  1. Richard Brinkman says:

    I am a 75 year old male and I have been bi-polar for most of my life. I started using Neurofolin about a year ago and it has been enormously beneficial. Fortunately I stocked up when I heard about the TGA inquiry and I can still have my Neurofolin daily for now.
    When will this product be ready available again?
    Neurofolin is little short of a lifesaver.

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