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'Drug Free' Committee.

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Media Release


Ms Trish Worth


TW 8/98

Friday, 27th March 1998




The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Family Services, Trish Worth, today announced the establishment of a special Committee to examine whether the use of the term drug free is appropriate when advertising certain medicinal products, and what alternatives might be used to accurately promote such products.


In December last year the Government introduced an amendment to the Therapeutic Goods Regulation to prohibit the use of the term 'drug free' in the promotion of medicinal products. The regulation is currently before Federal Parliament for consideration.


"This regulation was intended to clarify the existing law that a product which made a claim about its therapeutic benefit could not then be promoted as drug free", Ms. Worth says.


"The Government has an obligation and a duty of care to ensure that consumers are not misled about the nature and safety of medicinal products," says Ms. Worth. "This is not about restricting people's access to information or goods. Rather, by clarifying the law we will ensure that medicinal products are labelled correctly and advertised appropriately so that consumers are not misled."


The proposed change does not affect consumers' or practitioners' access to information about complementary medicines or access to these products. Nor does it require these products to be labelled as 'drugs'.


"Health consumers have a right to timely and accurate information about the products they purchase. They also have a right to expect that the Government is protecting their interests in relation to access to information and safety of products," says Ms. Worth. "The challenge for Government is to strike a balance between the commercial interests of industry and the interests of the community generally and that is what the proposed Regulation aims to do."


While support for this proposed Regulation has come from 1 of the 2 industry organisations representing complementary medicines, as well as various consumer and complementary practitioner organisations, the Government acknowledges that some industry members and consumers are concerned about the 'drug free' issue. Complementary medicines include herbal, homeopathic, vitamin and mineral preparations.


Ms. Worth has acted decisively by establishing a Committee of key stakeholders to examine the issue and put it beyond doubt.


The Committee will report to Ms. Worth by 8th May 1998 and its findings will be tabled in Parliament along with the Government's response to the recommendations.


Media contact:

Lisa Brett on 02 6277 4927 or 0411 261 336


Committee to Examine the Use of the Term 'Drug Free'


The Committee is to examine and review restrictions to presentation* of medicinal products which are not scheduled under the Drugs and Poisons scheduling restrictions with particular reference to the use of the term "drug free".


The Committee is to report by 8 May 1998 to the Parliamentary Secretary who will table the report in the Parliament. A Government response to the recommendations will be provided to the Parliament.


The Committee's terms of reference are:


1. To consider the use of the term 'drug free' in the presentation* of unscheduled medicinal products.


2. To consider alternati ves to the use of the term 'drug free' in the presentation of unscheduled medicinal products.


3. To make any recommendations arising from 1 and 2 above, including any changes which may be necessary to the Therapeutic Goods Regulations and the Therapeutic Goods Advertising code.


4. To prepare a report on the above to the Parliamentary Secretary by 8 May 1998


Membership of the Committee will be:


Chair - Professor Dave Roberts - [Complementary Medicines Evaluation Committee]


Ms Juliet Seifert [Chair, Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code Council]


Ms Val Johanson [Executive Director, Nutritional Foods Association of Australia]


Professor Lloyd Sansom [Chair, Australian Pharmaceutical Advisory Committee]


Mr Matt O'Neill [Australian Consumers' Association]


Ms Janne Graham [Consumers' Health Forum]


Dr Giselle Cooke [Australian Complementary Medicine Association/National Herbalists Association of Australia]


Dr Bob Grace [Australian Committee of Natural Therapists]


Dr Sue Wicker [Royal Australian College of General Practitioners]


Ms Bronwyn Capanna [Proprietary Medicines Association of Australia]


* Clause 3, Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 refers. ‘Presentation', in relation to therapeutic goods means the way in which the goods are presented for supply, and includes matters relating to the name of the goods, the labelling and packaging of the goods and any advertising or other informational material associated with the goods.