Happenings – June 2012

by Ken Greatorex

Nuns Fight Back! In last month’s Happenings, we reported on an attempt by The Vatican to rein in America’s fifty thousand nuns. Here’s the latest. Meanwhile, Australia’s last openly pro­gressive Catholic bishop, Can­berra’s Pat Power resigned, citing the Vatican’s inability to listen, clergy sex abuse and the short­age of priests as the biggest issues facing the church.

In Australia, a supreme court judge has forced Jehova’s Witness parents to allow their four-year-old daughter to receive a blood transfusion, without which she had a life expectancy of a few weeks.

A Philadelphia court has sentenced chiropractor Brian McDaid to jail. Not for being a chiropractor, we hasten to add; but for serially cluttering email inboxes with ads for “cures” involving HGH, green tea, hoodia & other unproven & potentially dangerous substances. The US Federal Trade Commission had already brought successful civil proceedings against McDaid in 2005. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. Full Story Here

Vic Skeptics Trivia Night came and went.

Eyes Down for a round of Religious Icon Bingo

The Golden Bent Wooden Spoon was awarded to Syracusa, who comprehensively demonstrated that they were the Least Trivial Team by gaining fewest points at Trivia Night. The Most Trivial Team was It’s Gracie’s Birthday, who not only scored a box of goodies, but also the inaugural Darwin-K-Bear-On-A-Stick (which they inexpicably left behind).

The Glittering Prizes

Effective Self-Regulation?

We’d like to thank a Pharmacy chain, Chemist Warehouse and drug companies Pfizer, Ranbaxy Australia and  Swisse Pharmaceuticals for helping us make a case. Atorvastatin is a drug which is much prescribed (many would say “overprescribed”) for cholesterol regulation in Australia. It may be more familiar as Pfizer’s Lipitor, which comes off-patent this year. At last count, fourteen generic alternatives were ready to share in this market estimated at seven billion dollars. Agressive promotion has resulted in long-standing conventions against advertising prescription medicines directly to the public being flouted.

Chemist Warehouse advertised “Generic Lipitor now available from $0” in major newspapers. This referred to Sandoz’s generic, to be initially dispensed free, subsequently at $14.99.

Pfizer advertised prominently, ensuring anxious customers that rumours that Lipitor was ceasing production were untrue. Interestingly, Pfizer is marketing its own generic alternative to Lipitor.

Ranbaxy Australia has been offering supporting pharmacists $15,000 worth of free atorvastatin (Trovas) and a 90% discount for subsequent orders. Dr Ken Harvey complained about the deal to the Generic Medicines Industry Association, saying it was equivalent to an “inducement”, prohibited by the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct. Ranbaxy simply declined GMIA’s invitation to have the matter adjudicated! The company is neither a member of the GMIA or Medicines Australia. It isn’t bound by  their codes.

We’ve long contended that Australia’s current reliance on self-regulation in the therapeutic goods industry is unsupportable. The fact that it continues through one embarrasing revelation after another has much to do with the Federal government’s insistence that the TGA, the body responsible for overseeing reviews and complaint resolutions be industry-funded.

Meanwhile, Swisse has won a legal skirmish over its claims that its products make people healthier. Swisse appealed against rulings of a TGA-chaired panel that some health claims made for Swisse’s products breached the advertising code. Justice Tracey found Swisse had been denied procedural fairness as it was unaware of detailed complaints made against its advertising.
The TGA said the ruling did not mean the advertisements did not contravene the code.

The Diet Pill Undoit also came under scrutiny

We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dr John Skerritt on his appointment as new head of the TGA, and to wish him well in the interesting times ahead.

 New Scientist reported a new Distance Record for Teleportation of 97 km, achieved by Juan Yin and colleagues at the University of Science and Technology of China.

I won’t pretend to understand this.


Congratulations to The Rationalist Society of New South Wales which celebrates its 100th Birthday this year.

Sydney Skepticamp took place on May 26. It was highly successful by all accounts; however, there’s a refreshing warts-and-all review of the event here. http://www.skepticampaustralia.org/Sydney-2011-Event-Roundup.ashx. It’s not surprising that the Skepticamp Australia movement goes from strength to strength when critical feed-back from each event is used to advise and fine-tune future Skepticamps.

And finally, Phillip Adams conducted a one-hour interview with Dick Smith.

Dick Smith and Phillip Adams

It was required listening, as the two gentlemen in question, together with Melbourne lawyer Mark Plummer founded the Australian Skeptics. You can hear it Here

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