18 May, 2012

by Ken Greatorex

This is a collection of odds, ends and newsy bits that have taken our attention in the last month.

  • The Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne was as big an event as predicted. There was even an appearance by both militant Christians and Muslims. HERE. For Dick Gross’s review, see HERE

    Eugenie Scott

    The GAC was big enough to have its own fringe, in fact. Our own April Skeptics Café was billed as just such an event, featuring  the delightful Eugenie Scott. It may not have represented an enormous crowd for Ms Scott – she is much in demand internationally as a speaker – but it set a record for La Notte’s Club Room. Read the rest of this entry »

Cleaning up the Medicine Cupboard

19 July, 2011

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.

click full size

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 Read the rest of this entry »

SensaSlim Backdown

4 July, 2011
Dr Ken Harvey at Skeptics of Vic

Dr Ken Harvey

The libel case brought by SensaSlim against Dr Ken Harvey is almost over, with SensaSlim eventually backing down.  The only remaining issue is one of costs.

Dr Ken Harvey says:

Subsequent to the ACCC freezing SensaSlim’s Australian bank account, their lawyers (Kennedys) have withdrawn from the case; an external administrator / liquidator was appointed to take over the company on 30/06/2011; a revised statement of claim was not submitted by the final date allowed by the court (July 1, 2011) and my lawyers will now apply to have the case finally stuck out (and costs awarded) at the next sitting of the defamation list judge on July 11, 2011.

However, this is likely to be a pyrrhic victory as it is very doubtful if any money from the liquidator will be available to pay the costs awarded!

The case has highlighted some fundamental flaws in Australian regulation concerning complementary medicines and the promotion of therapeutic goods which have been the subject of many submissions to recent government enquires. Hopefully, some reforms will emerge.



In further news, the SensaSlim case has made news in the UK.  Dr Capehorn gives his thoughts as to what happened, here.

Dr Ken Harvey

Dr Ken can now take the gag off.

Power Balance: the End of a Shonky Fad

5 May, 2011

What can we learn from the short history of the Power Balance wrist bands in Australia?  It was a pseudo science fad that the Australian Skeptics played a part in ending.

The recent ACCC threat to prosecute retailers who continued to sell them has had an immediate chill effect.

Sports shops, health shops and retailers of all kinds have now removed Power Balance wrist bands from shelves and counters all over Australia.

How did it happen?  Who’s behind it?  Can we do the same to (insert your favourite pseudo science product here)?

What follows is a potted history of the end of the Power Balance fad.  (If you disagree or have more to add please make a comment below.)

How did it all start?

2007 (USA)

Two young entrepreneurial brothers, in Orange County California, Troy Rodarmel and Josh Rodarmel started the company in early 2007.

The business model is quite straight forward: design colourful, stylish wrist bands that can be manufactured very cheaply in China and sell them locally at a much higher price.  Market the bands by making health and technology claims and Read the rest of this entry »

The ACCC Moves on Power Balance

23 December, 2010

After the TGA Complaints Panel ruled on Power Balance bracelets last month, the promoters of Power Balance were asked to put up this disclaimer on their web sites.  To no one’s surprise, they didn’t.

Now stepping in to take on Power Balance is a regulatory body with a little more grunt, the ACCC. Unlike the TGA, the ACCC can force business to act responsibly if they won’t do it voluntarily.

Power Balance Australia has given the ACCC a number of undertakings that include:

– not make any further claims to the effect that the products will improve the user’s balance, strength and flexibility.

– not, in conjunction with the products, make claims that “Power Balance is Performance Technology” or use the phrase “Performance Technology”.

– not make claims that Power Balance products are “designed to work with the body’s natural energy field”.

The company has 14 days to comply Read the rest of this entry »

Some pointers on critically assessing the validity of claims

17 October, 2010

by Lucas Randall

Wide-scale access to the Internet has resulted in unprecedented access to information for the average citizen of any developed nation, and the more recent proliferation of mobile data devices and networks have exponentially increased our ability to reference the collective body of knowledge on a whim.

This access comes at a price however, as tech-savvy marketers have outstripped science and education practitioners’ resources, funding and drive to make information easily accessible, effectively saturating the search-engine and news-reporting info-spheres with commerce-driven interpretations of research, opinion, tradition and in many cases, out-right pseudo-science or fraudulent claims.

Whilst most developed economies provide some levels of consumer protection, in Australia including bodies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) various industry ombudsmen and voluntary ‘societies’ with industry codes-of-practice, most consumers have very limited understanding of the significant differences in evidentiary support pharmaceuticals require, for example, as compared with “complimentary” or “alternative” medicines.

Read the rest of this entry »