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Minister Says Misinformation Must Stop

8 July 2002

Trans-Tasman Therapeutic Goods Agency – Minister Says Misinformation Must Stop

Health Minister Annette King says dishonest misinformation about a proposal to set up a trans-Tasman agency to regulate therapeutic products is misleading the public.

“Some individuals and organisations are making wild claims about the proposed Trans-Tasman Therapeutic Goods Agency, when the Government hasn’t even decided yet whether to proceed with a joint agency, or on the specifics of the regulatory scheme,” Ms King said today.

“There is currently a lot of misinformation circulating about what is being proposed and how it would affect consumers of dietary supplements. This misinformation is being used to mobilise consumers to express their opposition without having had the opportunity to read and understand the proposals.”

Ms King said consumers were being misled on a number of points. “For example, the claim that people will in future be forced to get a doctor’s prescription for preparations such as vitamin and mineral supplements is a complete fabrication. This claim continues to be made, in spite of the fact that there is not, and never has been, such a proposal.

“The proposed joint agency with Australia would be just that – a joint agency, which would have offices and staff with appropriate expertise in both countries. The agency would be accountable to both the New Zealand and Australian Ministers of Health, giving each country equal say. New Zealand’s interests would be well protected and there would be no loss of sovereignty, as suggested, wrongly, by the Greens.”

If a joint agency were to go ahead, new legislation would be required in both New Zealand and Australia, as well as a treaty between the two countries.

Ms King said regardless of whether a joint agency was established, regulatory change was required because New Zealand’s current regulations for medicines, medical devices and dietary supplements were outdated.

“Regardless of whether there is a joint agency, there has been a call for many years for the need to have regulation around dietary supplements. It is not acceptable that health claims are being made that can’t be backed up, and for unsafe products to be put on shop shelves without adequate controls.”

Dietary supplements are currently regulated under the Food Act, but many supplements make unsubstantiated health benefit claims. “That is against the law as it stands, so regulation must be straightened out.”

Ms King said the Government believed dietary supplements and herbal medicines had a real role to play in the health of New Zealanders. “But we are determined that role should be a safe one. We don’t want snake oil peddlers claiming to cure cancer, and I’m certain consumers and scrupulous manufacturers don’t want that either.”


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