The RACGP has added its voice to calls to block proposed legislation that would allow complementary medicines to make non-evidence-based claims

The proposed legislation would permit “dangerous and misleading” claims on CMs including homeopathy and vitamins, the doctors say.

Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care, Dr Evan Ackermann, said the proposed legislation, which arose from the Sansom Review in 2015, puts Australian patients in danger and must not come into force.

“The 860 claims that will be legally permitted on complementary medicine under this new legislation have no scientific basis and can cause harm,” Dr Ackermann said.

“Our politicians must step up and protect their communities from unfounded claims which are misleading patients to think they are improving their health.

“It is not acceptable that Australian patients are being misled and as a result, wasting their money based on these claims.”

Earlier this week CHOICE went to Canberra to lobby Federal Senators not to approve the legislation, saying they had 35 days to disallow it and wind back the rules.

“At minimum, we’d like to see these companies display a clear warning on pack informing people that these claims are based solely on traditional use and have no scientific basis,” said CHOICE Campaigns and Policy Team Lead Katinka Day.

Dr Ackermann said the RACGP supports CHOICE’s efforts in Canberra to block the legislation.

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) must prioritise patients’ health and safety by supporting evidence based medicines and not unsubstantiated claims such as ‘moistens dryness in the triple burner’,” he said.

“The passing of the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2017 Measures No.1) Bill 2017 and the Therapeutic Goods (Charges) Amendment Bill 2017 allows companies to profit on nothing more than endorsements of pseudoscience.”

As CHOICE had done earlier in the week, he pointed out that under the legislation homeopathic products will be able to claim they decrease the time taken to fall asleep, and relive symptoms of mild anxiety, “despite the Federal Government warning that homeopathic products are ineffective”. Tonics would also be able to claim to maintain healthy heart function without having scientific evidence to back their claims, he warned.

Dr Ackermann said that efforts should be made to ban brands that produce complementary medicine from using unfounded claims to mislead Australian patients in attempts to make a profit.  

“At the very least, mandatory disclaimers should feature on all traditional complementary medicines, making it clear that they are not accepted by most modern medical experts, as has been proposed by the RACGP.

“We want patients to make informed choices about their health and these claims are extremely misleading.”

Friends of Science in Medicine has also written to Senators expressing concerns about the fact that 86% of the 1019 indications can now be supported by traditional evidence which “are by default prescientific”.

Meanwhile, the Australian Self-Medication Industry has urged Senators to support the reforms.

ASMI CEO Deon Schoombie said the legislation was a “tremendous step forward” for helping consumers make informed decisions.

“Concerns have been expressed in the media about traditional medicines and evidence for the claims made about them,” he said.

“The TGA has evidence requirements which create a clear distinction between scientific evidence and traditional evidence supporting claims about complementary medicines.

“For a sponsor to claim a medicine has traditional evidence it must have a history of medicinal use of the ingredients or medicines that exceeds three generations (75 years) and it must be extensively recorded in internationally recognised sources.”