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Ministry of Health Grandstanding

Beyond Alternative Solutions Advisor to the Dietary Supplement Industry

Ministry of Health Grandstanding

"Whilst the Ministry of Healths 'urgent' recall of some Chinese Herbal Remedies is about time, its timing is politically motivated coinciding impeccably with the 20th anniversary of CER," said dietary supplement industry advisor, Ron Law.

"Reports released by Medsafe under the Official Information Act reveal that the Ministry of Health has known that some of these products have been adulterated with illegal ingredients since 1996 but has failed to prosecute offenders," said Ron Law.

Medsafe's Dr Stewart Jessamine was shown on TV1 news (Tuesday 21 January 2003) claiming that dietary supplements and herbal remedies are unregulated in New Zealand.

"This is a simple false statement," says Ron Law. "A recent review of current legislation in New Zealand reveals that there are well over 20 Acts, Regulations and codes of practice that regulate the dietary supplement industry. What has been missing is an active regulator concerned about public health, rather than attempting to build a bureaucratic empire with their Australian cousins under the guise of regulatory efficiency."

"If the Ministry of Health is really interested in protecting public health -- rather than simply grand-standing for political purposes, then it will prosecute the offending distributors. The legitimate $200+ million dietary supplement industry would welcome that rather than have Medsafe besmirch the whole legitimate industry for political purposes," said Ron Law

It is no co-incidence that the Ministry of Health has announced their actions on the eve of the 20th anniversary of CER; it is another unabashed attempt to distort due process and plead the case for New Zealand to adopt Australia's TGA as the New Zealand regulator under the guise of a joint regulatory agency.

The fact that Australia has also had problems with adulterated herbal products proves that its burdensome regulatory system provides no safer environment than New Zealand's light regulatory system. The Ministry of Health's press statement makes no mention that the alleged Aristolochic acid debacle in Belgium occurred following prescription of a mix of herbal and pharmaceutical medicines by medically trained medical practitioners -- the same batch of the herb alleged to have caused the renal failure in Belgium did not affect patients of herbalists!

The press and consumers are reminded that the chances of dying in New Zealand from a legal dietary supplement are somewhere between being killed by lightening and being killed by a meteorite.

According to the Ministry of Health, over 1,500 New Zealanders are killed by highly preventable medical injury in New Zealand every year and over 650 New Zealanders die from highly preventable adverse reactions to pharmaceutical medicines "properly" regulated by Medsafe. Highly preventable medical injury is the third leading cause of death in New Zealand and is the number one killer in under 40 year olds -- Medsafe should stick to its knitting and prosecute any illegal traders.

No one has ever died in New Zealand from consuming a legal dietary supplement. The relative risks associated with orally consumed substances using official mortality data as a measure are:

Dietary supplements 1

De minimis level for food additives 42

Highly preventable food related deaths 360

Food related deaths 900

Highly preventable pharmaceutical related deaths 46,000

Pharmaceutical related deaths 100,000

The Ministry of Health's actions prove that existing regulations can work -- but only if there is a willing regulator.

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