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    The TGA is not capable of assessing complementary medicines, much as it would like to. Best it sticks to assessing patent medicines – the ones that cause far more issues with un-expected interaction and debatable efficacy. That said, it would be good to have guarantees as to the contents of the bottles etc. But leave the consumers to tinker. No harm done unless people are so stupid as to drink a litre of olive oil or some-such. Not even the TGA can stop the Darwin Effect.

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    Peter Ormonde

    For the most part there are few consequences for leaving the punters to fiddle about with herbs and vitamins … the worst that happens is that they quite literally flush their money away each morning.

    But there are some instances where specific complimentary medicines can have a dramatic interaction with prescribed medicine…. one being St John’s Wort and it’s reaction with anti-depressants. There have also been a few instances where traditional Chinese concoctions – taken by enthusiastic amateurs have led to death.

    A few years back as a newly appointed member of the Science Faculty Board, – and coming from a background not too far from the TGA – I found myself suggesting that rather than establishing a proposed School of Traditional Chinese Medicine for fee-paying undergrads, the more rational approach would be to establish a centre for evaluating complimentary medicines at a post-grad level and seek government and industry funding. Money was available and the project would have indeed been most welcome to the then Federal Minister.

    Unknowingly I had wandered into a tense no-man’s land between the biological sciences (who had a host of nursing lecturers facing imminent redundancy) and the so called “hard scientists” who believed that such potions were barely removed from witchcraft and astrology. Not much wiggle room.

    The School was of course established – saving the university a bucket of money, keeping a lot of redundant staff employed and pulling a stream of cash from offshore. And leaving the scientists appalled at being associated with a faculty that taught techniques based on unproven assertions, folktales and myths.

    Such is the way these decisions are made, that legitimacy is conferred. And still the claims go unchecked. What a waste.

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    Colin, why would efficacy evaluation for CMs be different in any way whatsoever to evaluation of patent medicines? If medicine works, it works, regardless of whether its genesis is in a lab or a herb.

    If I’m buying a bottle that’s labelled “Flower Extract – cures diabetes!” I don’t just want to know that its contents are 100% extracted from flowers. I also want to know that the medical claim has been properly tested, that the stuff in the bottle does what it says on the bottle.

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    John Shantelle Gacho

    Alternative medicine methods are diverse in their foundations and methodologies. Methods may incorporate or base themselves on traditional medicine, folk knowledge, spiritual beliefs, or newly conceived approaches to healing.-Guy Riordan

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    Seems pretty simple to me. Double blind, or meta-epidemiology. Long term studies. Hang on.. didn’t the Scandanavians just do that on mega- and multi-vitamins for women, and didn’t they find they actually *cut* life expectancy, not increased it…

    oh dear.


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