Stakeholders have called on the general public to get their information about COVID-19 from reputable sources, as the TGA warns on inappropriate advertising
The TGA says that it has identified that certain therapeutic goods, such as complementary medicines or disinfectants, have been inappropriately promoted for the prevention or treatment of infection with the novel coronavirus in Australia.
“The advertising of therapeutic goods to consumers in Australia is subject to legislative requirements administered by the TGA,” it says.
“The promotion of therapeutic goods to consumers for the prevention or treatment of novel coronavirus is likely to contravene the legislative requirements for a range of reasons, including unsupported claims or making a restricted representation.
“Consumers are advised to exercise caution when considering advertising claims related to novel coronavirus, and should immediately consult a health professional if they have health concerns.”
It says that medicines and supplements promoted as protecting against the novel coronavirus are unlikely to be effective in preventing an infection, and that it is unaware of any medicines or supplements available without prescription to assist with recovery from infection.
Meanwhile the RACGP has issued advice warning Australians to be careful about false or misleading medical advice on social media about the disease.
This follows a backlash against model Miranda Kerr, who according to news.com.au and other mainstream media shared an Instagram post promoting a “Virus Protection” guide by a “medical medium” who promotes celery juice as a healing therapy.
The RACGP also noted that a fake letter which claims to have been penned by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, has also been circulating on social media concerning school closures in Victoria.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said that all social media users should be wary of what they are reading.
“The community is growing increasingly alarmed about the spread of COVID-19 and given the massive media exposure that is hardly surprising.
“I understand that people are scared but turning to false or misleading social media content is not the answer. There is no magic cure for COVID-19 and schools are not being closed at this stage.
“It’s not always easy but social media users need to critically examine this content and consider the source of the information and whether it is credible.
“I encourage all Australians to apply a ‘sniff test’ to posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like and ask themselves whether the information is reliable and trustworthy.
“My advice is simple – wash your hands, keep them away from your face, avoid handshakes and mass public gatherings and don’t always believe what you see on social media.”
The RACGP President said that false or misleading social media posts about COVID-19 were part of a larger trend.
“In January this year we had celebrity chef Pete Evans using Instagram to promote the work of a prominent anti-vaccination advocate Robert F. Kennedy.
“At the time I told Mr Evans that he should stick to talking about activated almonds and leave vaccinations to healthcare professionals.
“He has gone quiet on vaccinations in recent months but the problem is that there are so many ‘experts’ on social media claiming that they have a magic cure or that expert medical advice shouldn’t be heeded. It is extremely frustrating and makes the work of GPs harder than it needs to be.
“Social media is such a large part of people’s lives and unfortunately many people are viewing content on their news feeds that is quite simply wrong and potentially very harmful.
“No one can be sure what will be required in Australia in coming months to limit the damage of COVID-19 but I can reliably tell you that the answer doesn’t lie in listening to a ‘medical medium’ such as Anthony William.”
Responding to the comments, the Pharmaceutical Society’s national president, Associate Professor Chris Freeman, also said that the public should exercise caution when sourcing information.
“PSA has set up our COVID-19 page which is to collate evidence based information,” he said.
“The best way to access information is from the health department and other reputable sources.”