Traditional Chinese Medicine in Australia: Yunnan Baiyao

Yunnan Baiyao

An illustrative example of products available in Australia from local Chinese outlets. Illegally supplied (no ARTG number), a potentially dangerous ingredient (Aconiti Kusnezoffii Radix), claims that breach numerous section of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018 (including promoting for serious disease such as TB). This product has been recalled from the market in Hong Kong, but not China. A complaint has been sent to the TGA but presumably it will be classified, ‘low priority’ as most are!

Yunnan Baiyao

See also, Yunnan Baiyao for (veterinary) patients with hemorrhage, neoplasia.

For a broader perspective:

Also, in the Senate debate on the Therapeutic Goods Amendment Bill 2017, Senator Di Natale argued for an amendment:

‘All indications citing traditional evidence must include the following statement: This traditional indication is not in accordance with modern medical knowledge and there is no scientific evidence that this product is effective’.

But Senator McKenzie said:

‘ A statement required by the Australian government that the indication is not in accordance with modern medical knowledge and that there is no scientific evidence will be seen as arrogant and insensitive to those practising and using traditional Chinese medicine…. The government will not be supporting this amendment by the Australian Greens’.

Senator Di Natale’s amendment was lost.

One of the many fruits of the China and Australia Trade Agreement (2015) which strengthened cooperation in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo, and Chinese Commerce Minister, Zhong Shan, sign a Declaration of Intent regarding Review of Elements of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, in the presence of Prime Minister Turnbull and Chinese Premier Li at Parliament House in Canberra
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TGA fails to act on illegal sports supplements

ABC story at:

But, this problem was publicised last year and a complaint sent to the TGA

And there are more complaints to the TGA that have not been dealt with:

These are illegally supplied and promoted products by Australian companies in breach of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. The companies involved are breaking the law. So why has the TGA hand-balled the latest publicised problem to ACT Health? This appears to be yet another example of food-medicine interface buck-passing between the TGA and FSANZ.

This is not good enough! Consumers are being put a risk. The ACCC (which takes consumer protection more seriously) must get involved.

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SBS The Feed, Session 2019, Episode 7, Cure or Quack

A controversial government review that’s about to change what’s available for private health fund rebate.

Presented by: Marc Fennell and Jan Fran

The program featured Naturopath Barbara O’Neil and her Misty Mountain Health Retreat, “where some people come with quite serious illness, like Lisa”. Lisa has gone against her doctor’s advice to have surgery and put her trust in Barbara instead.

But Barbara’s work as an alternative healer is under threat. “Unfortunately, it is claimed I’m a health risk now”.  She is currently under a prohibition order from the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. Jane Hansen has also written about Barbara in The Sunday Telegraph, 30 Dec 2018, “Naturopath’s cancer ‘healing’ claims under the microscope”.

Barbara says, “If someone has cancer my suggestion is no fruit for 6 weeks…”. “It’s the cycle of life that proves why vaccines don’t work because the body can heal itself…”. A petition in support of Barbara currently has 21,689 signatures.  

The government review that’s about to change what’s available for private health fund rebates will mean no more money back on things like Yoga, Pilates and Homeopathy from April 1, 2019.

A therapeutic Yoga teacher who works with mainstream organisations such as the Cancer Council of NSW said the changes will mean that many people will miss out on the health benefits of yoga because it’s going to cost them too much money now.”

Assoc Prof Jon Wardle said, “There is good evidence for some natural therapies, it’s just that the government review excluded it. It didn’t look beyond the English language, so things like yoga, where much of the research is Indian, things like Tai Chi, where much of the research is Chinese…. were not even looked at”.

In fact, Table 5 of the, “Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance” detailed the relatively small number of potentially relevant studies excluded due to language difficulties. For yoga, the review assessed 67 systematic reviews and 111 randomised controlled clinical trials involving 31 clinical conditions and 6,562 participants. The report also noted that advice was sought from the Indian Council of Medical Research to identify appropriate research. Despite follow-up, at the time of writing the report, a response had not been received.

Also, the program did not mention that Jon Wardle is trained as a naturopath and his University Research Centre for Complementary and Integrative Medicine (ARCCIM) receives funding from the Jacka Foundation. The latter’s stated vision is, “A society where natural therapies are the first choice for people seeking informed control of their health and wellbeing”. In short, Wardle has a conflict of interest that was not reported.

When I was interviewed, I pointed out that the Private Health Insurance rebate is paid for by 100% of taxpayers yet it only benefits around 50% of people who can afford private health insurance. I agreed that exercise, including Yoga and Tai Chi is good, but why not subsidise gym membership or walking clubs? More money should be spent on prevention, but this should be for everyone, not just for those who can afford private health insurance. This and other relevant comments did not make it air.

Finally, making an informed choice means having access to good information, not the information purveyed by people like Barbara O’Neill.

I leave it to others to answer the question, was this was a balanced presentation?

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Food-medicine interface problems

FSANZ, Consumer and Public Health Dialogue, 27 March 2019, Canberra.

I’ve now provided a report of my presentation and the discussion that ensured.


The regulation of health claims for foods and complementary medicines is inconsistent; complaint systems are problematic, no effective penalties are applied for documented breaches of the law, and shonky (and dangerous products) are proliferating. The consequence is consumer detriment. There needs to be one ethical Code governing the advertising of health claims for food, medicines and medical devices and one timely, effective and accountable complaint system, with penalties that deter the profit that currently accrues from breaking the law.

I suggested that the ACCC should invite FSANZ to join the Consumers Health Regulators Group and the topic of consistent and effective regulation of health claims should be a high priority agenda item for this group.

The presentation I gave to the FSANZ Consumer and Public Health Dialogue is available here: Food-Medicine Interface Problems: The need for reform

In submissions to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee on the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2017 Measures No. 1) Bill 2017, the Public Health Association of Australia, Choice and Friends of Science in Medicine suggested expanding the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code to a Therapeutic Claims Advertising Code so complaints could be dealt with by one authority. In response, a submission from the Department of Health stated that it was beyond the scope of the Therapeutic Goods Act, and potentially the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers for the TGA, to manage complaints related to foods that make health claims.

Another suggestion was for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to act using s.18 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 which prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct. The ACCC responded: “While this is ultimately a matter for government, the ACCC is not in a position to step in where another regulator has resource constraints or makes a different assessment of priorities given our broad consumer and competition remit”.

We agree with the ACCC. The problems documented above should be a matter for the new government that will be formed after the 18 May 2019 election. We suggest the new government asks the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) to revisit their 2011 audit of the TGA, add FSANZ to the terms of reference, and focus the audit on ensuring ethical health claims are made in both food and medicines.

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Lectures in Canberra; ANU & FSANZ

In Canberra from 25th-27th March 2019 staying at University House, a guest of the ANU.

Two lectures to ANU BHSc students:

One lecture to FSANZ Consumer and Public Health Dialogue:

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SBS Insight – Vitamins: Sorting science from scam

The vitamins and dietary supplements industry has doubled over the last 10 years – we’re now spending an estimated $4.9bn each year on complementary medicines. But while some medical professionals say they work, others say the scientific evidence isn’t there, and warn we could be wasting money and risking our  health.

Available on SBS OnDemand:

See also: A closer look at Australia’s most popular supplements

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Laboratory tests commonly used in complementary and alternative medicine

Malvern Natural Health Care

Does it? See: Laboratory tests commonly used in complementary and alternative medicine: A review of the evidence.

Ann Clin Biochem. 2019 Feb 27:4563218824622. doi: 10.1177/0004563218824622. [Epub ahead of print]


It is increasingly easy for the general public to access a wide range of laboratory tests. Tests can be ordered online with little or no input from a health professional. The complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) community promote and sell a wide range of tests, many of which are of dubious clinical significance. Many have little or no clinical utility and have been widely discredited, whilst others are established tests that are used for unvalidated purposes. They range from the highly complex, employing state of the art technology, e.g. heavy metal analysis using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, to the rudimentary, e.g. live blood cell analysis. Results of ‘CAM tests’ are often accompanied by extensive clinical interpretations which may recommend, or be used to justify, unnecessary or harmful treatments. There are now a small number of laboratories across the globe that specialize in CAM testing. Some CAM laboratories operate completely outside of any accreditation programme whilst others are fully accredited to the standard of established clinical laboratories. In this review, we explore CAM testing in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia with a focus on the common tests on offer, how they are reported, the evidence base for their clinical application and the regulations governing their use. We will also review proposed changed to in-vitro diagnostic device regulations and how these might impact on CAM testing.

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Clean energy disruption

Excellent meeting at packed Hawthorn Arts Centre Venue on 27 February 2019.

Great presentations now available at:

From the presentation of Simon Holmes a Court: Not event at a trot… Australia’s emissions reductions progress.
This says it all!
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Yet again a Victorian chiropractor manipulates a baby’s spine in ‘deeply disturbing’ video

Andrew Arnold performing controversial spinal treatments on a newborn 

Victoria’s health minister Jenny Mikakos has condemned a Melbourne chiropractor filmed hanging a two-week-old baby upside down by his ankles. She slammed the treatment as “unacceptable” and called on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to act.

“The Chiropractic Board of Australia must condemn this practice as unprofessional and unacceptable and the AHPRA must act quickly to stop these rogue practitioners in their tracks,” she told 9News.

Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) paediatric expert, Professor Don Cameron said, “The treatment demonstrated in the video is nothing more than ludicrous nonsense. It is inappropriate for any chiropractors to be treating infants as this is not without risk of significant harm; also, the ‘Activator’ device used by the chiropractor, has no sound scientific basis and is at best, an expensive placebo”.

If you watch the longer 3:19 video, the chiropractor is also tapping the sacrum and skull: Craniosacral therapy! This “therapy” lacks a biologically plausible mechanism, shows no diagnostic reliability, and provides no clinical effect; see:

Yet plenty of people are offering it:

“Chiropractors continue to pursue expanding their practices into paediatrics, in particular, neonates. The federal government should legislate that no child under 8 years can be treated by chiropractors” said FSM Professor Alastair MacLennan.

FSM President, Professor Ken Harvey repeated his concerns that pseudoscientific, ineffective, dangerous and poorly regulated ‘treatments’ and ‘products’ are increasingly being inflicted on a public that is poorly served by regulators such as the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) who are supposed to protect them.

“In 2016 there was similar publicity about chiropractor Ian Rossborough. He was prohibited from manipulating children while he underwent “education”. There is now no indication on his AHPRA record of any of this and presumably he is now free to continue to treat neonates and children. I imagine the same pattern will occur with
Andrew Arnold. It’s time the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) stopped slapping these practitioners with a limp lettuce leaf and acted decisively”, said Professor Harvey.

An interview of Professor Harvey by Nadia Mitsopoulos on ABC Radio Perth is available.

A FSM press release is also available.

A letter to the Victorian Health Minister has been sent by FSM

A letter to “The Age” has been published:

Dangerous practices

Manipulation of babies’ spines (The Age, 20/2) is unnecessary, unproven and potentially dangerous. Chiropractors who convince mothers that their babies have mythical subluxations and deformities following birth, which can be magically manipulated away (for multiple fees), are dangerous. Effective regulation of pseudo treatments for non-existent disorders by non-medical practitioners is almost non-existent. It is time that alternative therapists stopped targeting children and regulators such as the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency acted.

Associate Professor Ken Harvey, public health and preventive medicine, Monash University

Additional media cover:

2016 coverage of this issue:

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60 Minutes: Health supplements could contain heavy metals, arsenic and even snow leopard
Above video without advertisements

Liver transplant surgeon Dr Paul Clark says Australians should know that their supplements may be doing more harm than good. Dr Clark breaks down the potential affects of popular supplements like Valerian, St. John’s Wort and green tea extract.

Monash University Public Health Physician Dr Ken Harvey calls out “crap” complementary medicines including ‘Vitamin Gummies’ marketed towards child fussy eaters – saying they’re loaded with sugar and do more harm than good.

See also: Kids’ vitamin gummies: unhealthy, poorly regulated and exploitative


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