Power of altmed in NZ

duckBananaQuack
The conservative NZ Government called for public submissions on their draft Natural Health Products Bill.

The Bill is a flawed sop to the alternative medicine (altmed) industry and a pretend attempt to acknowledge the importance of science in health.  Let’s not forget, alternative medicine is like pointing to a dog and saying “That’s my alternative cat.” It’s still a dog.

Let’s not forget also that the almed industry is a dangerous multi-million dollar profit centre. Associate Professor Alastair MacLennan, of Adelaide University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology estimated the industry was worth about $1 billion a year – $620 million on alternative medicines, and $309 million on alternative practitioners. This was based on 1993 data, however, and these days altmed has mushroomed into a very serious rival to Big Pharma for the health dollar. A patient of MacLennan almost bled to death on the operating table. She had failed to mention she had been taking “natural” potions to “build up her strength” for the operation – one of them turned out to be a powerful anticoagulant which nearly killed her. I wonder if it was a “low risk” one that the NZ Government is happy about?

Here’s my submission:
This Bill is flawed on many levels.

I oppose using the concept of “traditional”. It is a nebulous and anti-scientific category, open to abuse by advertisers promoting their products when there is no evidence for the efficacy of those products. I have led aid missions in a developing country where it was “traditional” to rub cow manure into the navel of new born infants. Resulting disease for the child was “traditional”.

I oppose the dichotomy between “Health Claims” and “Therapeutic Claims” which is designed again to water down the requirement for scientific evidence.

The notion of “low risk” is unacceptable. Different people have different physiological responses to the same substance. Many substances we previously regarded as “low risk” have now been shown to have significant risk. Once again, the proposal is designed to allow the altmed industry to continue to sell snake oil on the grounds that “it can’t do much harm”. Such a manner of regulating is a flawed and irresponsible model for the parliament to follow and I urge it not to.

I look forward to the day when we have no separate “natural” products legislation and only have legislation demanding strong scientific evidence for any health claim.

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