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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19578

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Farr L
Sex life, weight loss, blood pressure medicines 'avoid official testing'
Adelaide Now 2011 May 18

Full text:

FIRMS behind drugs for everything from better sex life to weight loss are taking them off the market to avoid testing.

The bulk of products subjected to the tests need “corrective’’ changes, according to the latest figures from the Therapeutic Drugs Administration which monitors products on the booming complementary medicines market.

It is a multi-billion dollar industry offering benefits ranging from lower blood pressure to a better sex life, weight loss and improved memory.

However, the test failure rate is a strong indication that many products do not deliver what they claim – they don’t work – or in some extreme cases might be dangerous.

There are more than 10,000 complementary medicines on the Australian market and the TGA test outcomes are a major concern for health consumer groups which want clearer labels on products.

They also are a concern for well-established suppliers, many of the familiar names on the shelves of pharmacists, who don’t want the market tainted by shonky competitors.

The concerns have been heightened by an analysis of the latest figures released by the TGA for testing procedures between July 2009 and December 2010.

Some 15 per cent of products selected for testing – or 35 out of a total of 236 – were withdrawn by their makers before the tests could begin.

That left a total of 201 which were tested. Of these, 55 per cent, or a total of 110, were required to undergo modifications.

A further 33 per cent, a total of 67, were cancelled by the TGA.

That meant that just 12 per cent of the tested products, or 24 out of 201, were found to comply with official standards.

According to one analysis, the non-compliance issues included labeling (89 out of 2001), manufacturing practices (77), and serious questions about claims that the products did what they claimed (45).

To take the testing conducted between July, 2009 and March, 2010, 14: Of 31 random reviews, 14 products did not have evidence to substantiate their claims; 22 had manufacturing or quality issues; 12 were found to have given incomplete or inappropriate information to the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods; and 20 had misleading labels.

The TGA could never do thorough testing of the thousands of alternative remedies and concentrates on “high risk’’ which must be registered.

“Low risk’’ products with limited claims made for their relatively harmless ingredients are listed rather than registered. This is the classification for almost all of the complementary medicines.

Targeted and random testing is conducted after a product has been on the market for 12 months.


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