Alternative therapies enter Choice Hall of Shame


A homeopathic melatonin product and magnet therapy have “won” Shonky Awards, handed out by Choice

Choice launched its Shonkies in 2006, to “call out some of the shonkiest products and companies taking advantage of Australian consumers each year”.

Joining the Shonkys “Hall of Shame” this year was Pharmacare’s Bioglan, for its homeopathic sleep formula.

“In 2017, we awarded Bioglan and another Pharmacare brand, Nature’s Way, a Shonky for its outrageous claims that sticky, sugary lollies are in fact good for teeth,” says Choice.

“This year, Pharmacare and Bioglan receive another dubious honour for its over-the-counter Melatonin Homeopathic Sleep Formula.

“While melatonin (currently a prescription-only medicine in Australia) is known to promote sleep and is used to help people suffering jet lag or sleep disorders, there’s no reliable evidence that homeopathic melatonin (or homeopathic products in general) has any effect other than as a placebo.

“Despite this, the company makes the claim that Bioglan Melatonin helps ‘relieve mild temporary insomnia and symptoms of mild nervous tension’.”

Choice also takes aim at the fact that the product is available in chewable tablet form or oral spray, both making the same claims around insomnia; however the dose for tablets is three to five, half an hour before bedtime, whereas the spray claims to “work quickly”.

Bioglan’s web page advises that results depend on the frequency of dosing, not the quantity used, due to the way homeopathy purportedly works.

“To be fair to Bioglan, consuming more does support the primary reason for this product’s existence – the more tablets people chew, the sooner they’ll potentially cough up another $24.50 (RRP),” says Choice.

“Melatonin Homeopathic Sleep Formula is packaged like medication and sold in a pharmacy. But with murky claims that are not supported with evidence, wasting money is the only area where this product is proven to be effective.

“Not only does Bioglan Melatonin not help you sleep, it’s Shonky enough that you might lose sleep worrying about the brazen trickery this company gets away with.”

Another alternative therapy – magnetic therapy – took out a second Shonky.

“Magnetic therapy promises to take away or relieve pain through placing weak static magnets at pain points around the body,” says Choice.

“A magnet that removes pain? With such a bold claim, you’d hope for some type of evidence, but there’s a clear lack of studies that prove these devices aren’t simply placebos.”

Choice cites a meta-analysis of nine placebo-controlled randomised trials, conducted by professors at the Complementary Medicine Centre from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, which did not find evidence to support the use of static magnets for pain relief.

Choice criticised the entire concept of these magnets, not focusing on one particular brand, though it does highlight that two prominent brands are Dick Wicks and BioMagnetic Sport.

While these products’ websites do point out that the devices are not medical treatments, and that advice on the sites is not a substitute for medical care, to get to this disclaimer first means getting through a number of pain relief claims.

Advice on the BioMagnetic Sport site – to persist with the device until up to 28 days even if a patient does not feel it is working – could delay patients seeking medical treatment, says Choice.

Also making it into the Hall of Shame this year were Marriot’s Vacation Club; Commonwealth Bank’s Dollarmites program; portacots; and the KitchenAid 2 Slice toaster, “for miserably failing its only job”.

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