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Health consumers urged to ignore misleading campaign

Health consumers have been urged to ignore a scare campaign which falsely suggests that new Federal Government Regulations will restrict access to natural or alternative medicines.

The campaign criticises Regulations to the Federal Government's Therapeutic Goods Act which outline how medicinal products can be advertised.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Family Services and Member for Adelaide, Trish Worth, describes the campaign as mischievous, irresponsible and inaccurate.

A very small number of individuals and organisations are behind the campaign. For legal reasons they can't be identified.

"Many serious health conditions such as cancer, asthma, heart complaints, HIV aids and depression should not be self diagnosed or treated without professional advice. Most people would agree that the public needs to be protected from false misleading and unsafe advertising. This campaign is trying to prevent the Regulations from going ahead," says Ms. Worth.

The first advertising Code for therapeutic goods came into effect in 1977. The Code prohibits advertising of therapeutic goods for certain serious and life threatening conditions which require professional health care and advice. It has been regularly reviewed with extensive consultation including industry, health professionals and consumer groups.

Contrary to the claims being made in the scare campaign, the Code:

. Does NOT change the existing controls on advertising

. Does NOT propose a new advertising code

. Does NOT alter the way consumers or health professionals obtain therapeutic goods

. Does NOT change the existing powers to stop breaches of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code

. Does NOT change the right of review through the Minister and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

. Does NOT allow drug companies to exert major control over the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code

Ms. Worth says the Code actually gives the natural and alternative medicines industry more say in decisions about advertising of their own products.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

WHAT DO COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE PRACTITIONERS AND MANUFACTURERS SAY ABOUT THE SCARE CAMPAIGN?

"The complementary health practitioners fully support suitable standards and regulations for advertising to protect consumers from misleading claims and inappropriate expectations. The current scare campaign does nothing to achieve a beneficial outcome. Commonsense is needed.

Dr Bob Grace PhD

President

Australian Committee of Natural Therapists

"The complementary medicines industry supports the need for appropriate guidelines for advertising these products. I believe that the co-regulatory model established under these regulations provides the opportunity for industry and government to work together with consumers and health care practitioners to achieve an Advertising Code that is less restrictive and which allows provision of factual and meaningful information to consumers on the use and benefits of complementary medicines. I am optimistic for long term successful outcomes of this system which is open and accountable and enables input from all relevant stakeholders."

Val Johanson

Executive Director

Nutritional Foods Association of Australia

"Industry has for many years now worked very closely with government, consumers, healthcare professionals and the Therapeutic Goods Administration to ensure appropriate standards are established and maintained. These standards are designed to guarantee accurate and reliable information is provided to the Australian public through advertising about medicines. The system has and always will be accountable, inclusive, transparent and open to everyone."

Juliet Seifert

Executive Director

Proprietary Medicines Association of Australia

For interviews with Ms. Worth please contact:

Lisa Brett, Media Adviser, 02 6277 4927 or 0411 261 336

For further information:

Karen Halbert, Office of the Hon Trish Worth, 02 6277 4927 or 0412 119 389

Avenel Grace, Federation of Natural and Traditional Therapists, 08 8344 6609

Val Johanson, Nutritional Foods Association of Australia, 02 6260 4022

Juliet Seifert, Proprietary Medicines Association of Australia, 02 9922 5111