Renewed warning over complementary medicines

2 minute read

NPS MedicineWise has reiterated warnings around complementary medicines


NPS MedicineWise has reiterated warnings that Australian consumers should exercise extra care when purchasing complementary medicines online and from overseas, following an expose of the industry in the US

The ABC’s Four Corners aired a program based on a joint investigation by the New York Times and the PBS Frontline on 16 May, which suggested that some complementary medicines were harmful.

The program linked diet supplement OxyElite Pro to cases of liver damage in the US and Australia. It also reported on the US Food and Drug Adminstration’s failure to regulate a weight-loss supplement containing an ingredient called ephedra, which had been implicated in more than 160 deaths.

“There’s no certainty that something you buy from an overseas website has been manufactured to Australian standards, and even a product with the same brand name as an Australian product may have completely different active ingredients,” NPS MedicineWise said.

Australia has a tiered system of regulation of medicines based on risk but only high-risk medicines must be registered on the Register of Therapeutic Goods. Complementary medicines are generally exempt from this requirement.

The Australian Self Medication Industry, which is the industry body for consumer healthcare product companies, said the TVs program had little relevance to Australian consumers.

“The fact is that there are significant differences between the way the US and Australia regulate these products,” chief executive Dr Deon Schoombie said.

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