Cleaning up the Medicine Cupboard

This post is a mixed bag of alternative medicine news featuring the TGA, Dr Ken Harvey, magic bracelets, magic pills and magic spray.

Do you recall our story about the health giving jewellery that could be purchased from Qantas duty free? Dr Ken Harvey put in a complaint to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)’s Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP) about the same. The complaint was upheld; the CRP asked for the withdrawal of advertising.

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A company called Alpha Flight Services Pty Ltd handles the sale of duty free items on Qantas flights.

Alpha Flight Services Pty Ltd also stated that, in response to the complaint, they had “acted promptly to withdraw all promotion of the products online” and had stopped selling the products.

In part the decision says:

The Panel was therefore satisfied that the advertisements contained many claims that had not been verified, were likely to arouse unwarranted expectations, and were misleading. These included the claims that the advertised products could improve heath, improve metabolism, improve or encourage blood circulation, expel toxins, reduce stress, improve sleep, lift alkaline levels in the body, neutralise acidic toxins, return the body to a natural state of balance, enhanced the immune system, reduce stress levels, soothe muscle fatigue, or increase body temperature. The advertisements therefore breached sections 4(1)(b), 4(2)(a), and 4(2)(c) of the Code. These aspects of the complaint were therefore justified.

For full details of the complaint and the sanctions imposed, a copy of the ruling can be found here.

I took an international fight on Qantas last month, sure enough; the magic jewellery has disappeared from the duty free catalogue. (Did you see what I did there?)

Thanks should go to Sue for spotting the original advertisements and to Dr Ken Harvey for his efforts.

Brauer in trouble with the TGA

For those that took part in the 10:23 campaign, you probably recall swallowing a large dose of homeopathy made by Brauer, a South Australian based company. The same company has been asked to withdraw advertising in relation to a homeopathic Hot Flush and Menopause Support product. Apparently, the advertised claims for the product couldn’t be substantiated. The CRP noted:

Traditional homeopathic evidence is not evidence that a product is efficacious in providing benefits such as the relief of menopause symptoms.

The odd part about all this, although the CRP is making it clear that the product has no efficacy, the ruling does not stop the sale of this product in pharmacies. The CRP only asked Brauer to withdraw advertising from its website:

…withdraw the unqualified representations that the advertised product is “for the relief of menopause symptoms and hot flushes associated with menopause” and “helps relieve common menopause symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, mood swings”

If people purchase the product at a pharmacy based on the packaging label only, Hot Flush & Menopause Relief apparently, that is not a problem. My understanding is that homeopathy is regarded as a special “traditional use” product by the TGA. As homeopathic products are categorised as such, the manufacturers don’t need to show that the product works before they are put on sale. Any perception that the public might have that the TGA’s “Aust – L” mark gives the product credibility is not considered.

At the time of writing the advertised claims remain unchanged on Brauer’s website.

The CRP ruling can be found here.

Many alt-med product sponsors that have CRP rulings made against them don’t comply with the sanctions imposed and the TGA don’t follow up with any further action. It will be interesting to see if Brauer comply.

Further news about the SensaSlim libel case against Dr Ken Harvey

You’d think that as the libel case against Dr Ken Harvey had lapsed, the TGA’s complaints resolution panel would be allowed to get on with making a ruling on the product. Unfortunately not.

Recently, Dr Ken Harvey’s legal team were hoping to have the libel case finally struck out.  However, the newly-appointed administrators of SensaSlim Pty Ltd said they weren’t ready for the hearing that would finally decide the matter. They asked for and were granted a six week extension. As the case is still in the courts, (if only just) the TGA still can’t rule on SensaSlim, the product is still on sale for another five weeks – at least.

More on SensaSlim – A Strange Advertisement

The TGA’s Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP) has come to a decision about an advertisement that appeared for SensaSlim.

This is a rather odd story.  A jockey claimed he lost 0.8kg between the weigh-in and weight-out at a particular horse race. These weight measurements were taken about 30 minutes apart. The jockey said the weight loss was down to a new slimming product he was trying (SensaSlim) and he wanted to sue for damages. What a gift to SensaSlim the case appeared to be: the jockey was eventually paid $12,500 for his weight trouble.

If you’d like to familiarise yourself with this story, I’d recommend viewing ABC TV’s Media Watch program about SensaSlim. Aired on the 5th of July 2011, it can be viewed here.

The CRP ruled on the way the jockey suing SensaSlim story was advertised. In particular, the placing of an advertisement in the Sunday Mail (a News Limited paper) on the 5th of June 2011.  The heading of the advertisement reads Thank you for suing us.

Click on the thumbnail to view a copy of the advertisement.

Click Full Size

As the advertisement was for a therapeutic product, it should have a TGA approval number – it didn’t.

NewsLimited argued that:

…no approval was required, as the published material was a “legal notice” and not an advertisement for therapeutic goods.

The CRP said that:

An advertisement for therapeutic goods is defined in the Act to include “any statement, pictorial representation or design, however made, that is intended, whether directly or indirectly, to promote the use or supply of the goods.

Further:

In the present matter, the Panel was satisfied that the print advertisement had not been approved and had not carried any approval number as required by the Regulations and the Code respectively.

Both News Limited and SensaSlim where asked by the CRP to stop using the advertisement. I think I can hear the sound of a small slap on the wrist.

Peter Foster and SensaSlim

In more sensational news, in the 16th of July The Age newspaper reported information obtained from the ACCC. The news was that notorious con-man Peter Foster, at least in one phone conversation, was pretending to be Peter O’Brien, the director of SensaSlim in Australia.

This is the first time a credible link has been established between Peter Foster and SensaSlim, where previously the link has only been conjecture based on similarities with other weight-loss products. If you don’t know who Peter Foster is, you may recall a news story from 2002 where Cherie Blair was involved in the sale of real estate, Peter Foster acted as financial advisor. [Peter Foster’s Wikepedia page]

It has subsequently emerged that on Friday the 15th of July one Peter Clarence Foster is named as a respondent in orders issued by the Federal Court of Australia.

The orders state:

….whether by themselves, their agents, servants or howsoever otherwise, be restrained from taking further steps to make representations regarding the efficacy of the Sensaslim Spray where the basis for the representation is a clinical trial or scientific report, unless the clinical trial was conducted and is the subject of a scientific report which has been published in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

This is to be done by the 20th of July or:

YOU WILL BE LIABLE TO IMPRISONMENT, SEQUESTRATION OF PROPERTY OR OTHER PUNISHMENT.

The orders can be found here.

I think it can now be safely said that to initiate a libel case against the critics of SensaSlim (notably Dr Ken Harvey) was a bad move. It would also save a lot of money and stress if the marketers of therapeutic products had to show reasonable evidence of efficacy before the product goes on sale.

Consider this, SensaSlim has had its funds frozen, the Federal Court has ordered particular advertising to be removed under a threat of imprisonment. Yet at the present time, you can still walk into a pharmacy and buy SensaSlim if you wish to.

Mal

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