Testing time for medicine

A NEW health awareness campaign is claiming that just 2% of complementary healthcare products currently on the market are being tested for quality, safety and efficacy.

The Know Your Product campaign, from not-for-profit organisation Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) claims that the lack of regulation and testing places consumers at risk.

CHF CEO Carol Bennett said that out of 11,000 complementary medicine products that are listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, only around 200 have even been independently tested for safety, efficacy and quality by the national drug regulator, the Therapeutics Goods Administration.

Ms Bennett highlighted the new campaign was not designed to criticise the huge complementary medicines industry, but to raise awareness about key issues around the industry.

"Complementary medicines have a role to play in the community. To us the issue is the very real lack of education around this industry and that's just got to change," she said.

"The rate of growth in complementary medicines is phenomenal. This is a massive industry making huge money. The complementary medicines' industry has experienced runaway growth - estimated at up to 12% per annum - with sales in 2010 alone totalling $1.2 billion and growing."

Nick Re, the owner of Retrain Health Byron Bay, which specialises in osteopathy, naturopathy and massage, said that he backs complementary medicines fully, and has seen many patients benefit from sessions.

"I think there's a time and a place for them for sure. I don't see them as a replacement for conventional medicines or antibiotics - as the name suggests, they can be complementary to those things," he said.

"The TGA sets the guidelines for supplementary medicines, so essentially if there was a need for them to be tested further, or they may not be safe, that would be happening."

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