The ABC program, Four Corners, recently aired an episode titled ‘Swallowing It’. This episode explored the quality and standards of Australian supplements, along with the Department of Health’s regulating body, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). We at the Australian Menopause Centre wanted to remind you, and emphasise, that Australia has some of the highest and most vigilantly monitored standards for supplements in the world. Supplements in Australia are regulated as medicines, not dietary supplements, and as such, company manufacturing facilities are required to meet audit standards which are the same as pharmaceutical standards.
Please see below for excerpts about the program from the National Institute of Integrative Medicine (NIIM).
The National Institute of Integrative Medicine (NIIM) would like to provide further information and a measure of balance to some of the viewpoints presented in the Four Corners program last night.
The Four Corners program focussed on promoting vitamins and supplements as unproven and a waste of money, however little hard evidence was given to substantiate these claims. Contrary to their assertion that there is ‘no evidence’, there is a substantial body of scientific studies in the field pointing to not only the efficacy, but safety of vitamins for prevention and treatment of a range of medical conditions.
The criticism that supplement companies are funding research in universities and the implication that this is unethical, fails to acknowledge the fact that Australian universities and research institutions are bound to conduct research in accordance with the NHMRC national guidelines for research, are governed by Human Research Ethics Committees, and have processes in place to ensure that contract research is independent, rigorous and objective.
To suggest or imply that because universities in Australia have accepted funding for research into complementary medicines, they are not being objective and could be open to corruption, is simply not accurate. The expanding need for good evidence based medicine is contingent upon good research.
Complementary medicine research is extremely poorly funded by the Australian government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) – in 2012 only 0.14% of its budget went towards complementary medicine research. If funding were not received from private companies, very little research would occur.
The program failed to address the important area of practitioner-only supplements, which accounts for a significant proportion of the industry. These supplements are dispensed by a practitioner at the correct dosage for specific conditions. However, the program did highlight the important fact that many people are self-medicating with supplements. NIIM strongly recommends that people consult a qualified healthcare professional for advice on supplements that may be relevant to their personal health needs.
The Australian Menopause Centre has a team of highly trained Naturopaths that are available to you. We use and recommend products that have been extensively researched, are highly regulated, and are indicated in your individual health picture.