Consumers and complementary medicines

Dr Ken Harvey, Adjunct Senior Lecturer at La Trobe University’s School of Public Health, is giving a presentation at the Brain Health and Natural Medicine Conference on "The Regulation of Complementary Medicines (a Consumer Perspective)", Monday 6 February.

pills‘A key problem for consumers with complementary medicines is sorting out the evidence-based wheat from the voluminous hype-driven chaff,’ says Dr Harvey.

‘SensaSlim is a nice example of the latter and the dangers of complaining about such products. This company, and then one of their directors, sued me for defamation when I submitted complaints about their fraudulent promotion.’ 

‘While the case in the NSW Supreme Court has been thrown out, another case in Queensland Supreme Court is to be heard this month,’ he says. 'It took nine months after I first submitted complaints for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to revoke marketing approval for this product'.

Dr Harvey says that there are many problems with the regulation of complementary medicines in Australia.

'In theory, consumers can look at the label to see if a medicine has been properly evaluated by the TGA. An AUST L label means that this is a "listed" product. The TGA does not evaluate AUST L products to check if the indications or claims made by the sponsor are justified. Most complementary medicines are labelled AUST L'.

'An AUST R label means a "registered product" which should mean that the TGA has thoroughly evaluated the product to ensure that the indications or claims made are evidence-based and supported by well conducted clinical trials. Prescription medicines are all AUST R labelled'.

‘The problem for consumers is that a number of AUST R complementary medicines have been grandfathered into the AUST R category without any proper evaluation,’ says Dr Harvey.

‘My talk will address TGA regulatory reform and other measures required to assist consumers to make informed choices about complementary medicines.’

Dr Harvey represented consumers in recent government reviews on TGA Transparency, advertising and complementary medicine regulatory reform.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Meghan Lodwick

La Trobe University Communications Officer
T:  03 9479 5353 M:  0418 495 941 E: