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Tighter regulation of complementary medicines

NZMA calls for tighter regulation of complementary medicines

NZMA chair Dr Tricia Briscoe called for tighter regulation of complementary medicines in an oral submission to the Health Select Committee today.

‘Evidence based aspects of complementary medicine are part of the repertoire of patient care, and may have a role in mainstream medical practice,’ she said. But she warned that the current ‘Buyer Beware’ approach provides for very limited controls and little protection of people’s health and life choices.

Dr Briscoe said that patients need access to balanced information on the risks and benefits of taking complementary products, but that the responsibility for providing this should not rest on the medical profession alone.

‘As a GP, I know how important it is to explain to patients the possible side effects of a prescribed medicine. But patients do not always tell us if they are taking complementary products and therefore the risk of adverse reaction is difficult to both predict and to quantify,’ she said. ‘The industry must take a lead in informing the public of side effects and what steps to take if adverse reactions are felt.’

‘The NZMA considers that complementary products should be classified as medicines and subject to the same rigorous testing and evidence based principles that apply to prescription medicines,’ Dr Briscoe said.

She called attention to recent cases of aggressively marketed products that were adulterated by the addition of ingredients such as NSAIDs and diazepam, Chinese herbal medicines containing toxic substances and the problems with Pan Pharmaceuticals, saying these show we must introduce tighter regulation around all dietary supplements and traditional remedies.

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