Consumer Affairs Victoria ordered Penguin to provide a “prominent warning” on all future books they publish about natural therapies (“Shining a spotlight on the self-help industry”, The Age, 30/9), explaining that the claims made are not evidence-based.
A similar disclaimer was recommended for all listed complementary medicines by a recent independent Medicines and Medical Devices Review. The Therapeutic Goods Administration trusts that sponsors hold evidence to support the claims made. Not surprisingly, in a regulatory system that provides no pre-market evaluation and no effective penalties for non-compliance, this trust is misplaced. Eighty per cent of the small number of products subjected to post-marketing reviews by the TGA are found non-compliant.
The government rejected the recommendation. It also rejected the findings of a review of natural therapies, set up with the NHMRC, to determine if these therapies should continue to attract a private health insurance rebate. Despite finding no clear evidence that these therapies were clinically effective, the government declined to remove the rebate.
Dr Ken Harvey, Associate Professor, Monash University