In mid 1996 the TGA objected to the use of the words 'drug free' in an advertisement for a herbal remedy 'Arthri-eze' that included fish oil and celery seeds. The advertisement had previously been approved by the Australian Publisher's Bureau (APB) who took the view
"that the general public in reading such advertisements do not regard such substances as drugs - technically though they may be so defined" in definition.The TGA lodged a complaint with the ASC (Advertising Standards Council) which was then rejected by the ASC noting that this
"was a case of the 'system' getting in the way of the community's general understanding of drugs, both legal and illicit types."Subsequently the ASC was disbanded, and therefore the TGA's next approach was to claim that the manufacturer was making a false and misleading claim for a product on the basis that the product was regulated as a 'drug'. The manufacturer has since appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
A court action by the TGA to prove that the claim 'drug free' for a herbal product is false and misleading, is most likely to fail on the grounds that the public are not being misled. This issue is not one of public safety, it is clearly a market choice issue and therefore is covered by either the Trade Practices Act or the Therapeutic Goods Act both of which prevent false and misleading claims.
The bureaucratic solution: introduce a new law that explicitly makes any representation of drug free illegal.
Government's claim that it is simply 'clarifying' the law is a nonsense.
Do two things as quickly as possible:
1. Urgent Petition
Get as many signatures as possible - photocopy the petition form as necessary. Return petition to NFAA or manufacturers reps as soon as possible. We don't know when this will be raised in parliament!
2. State Senators and Local Member: WRITE - FAX - PHONE
Contact your local federal member of Parliament and Senators irrespective of party, tell them that you are annoyed by this demonstrable bias against complementary medicine. The NFAA 'Drug Free' paper outlines the issue; it is vital that you write or fax your comments personally to your politician, form letters are rarely ever acknowledged. A personal letter from a "small business" operator will have a significant effect.
We are on notice, the government doesn't believe we can win this. Let's prove them wrong!
If you don't have the name and phone number of your federal member and senators, ring NFAA (02-6260 4022), Health Minders (02-9542 3144), Bullivants (07-3213 8777) or Blackmores (1 800 803 760) for the information.
Ask your staff to support this important initiative, their long term employment is at risk if government goes down the 'drug' path. This is all about government regulating alternative medicines as drugs.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Trish Worth, has told us the government intends to make 'drug free' illegal. If the government won't repeal this law, then our recourse is to ask all opposition Senators, Labor, Greens, Democrats and Independents Harradine and Colston, to have the regulation withdrawn by the Senate. It is absolutely vital that you write/fax/phone your State Senators as well as as your local federal member. Unless we can demonstrate to politicians that there are sufficient people in the community concerned about health freedoms we will not get this disallowed.
Marcus C. Blackmore
Chairman, Government Relations Group
Phone (02)9951 0111
Phone (02)6260 4022
Nutritional Foods Association of Australia
PO Box 1075
Chatswood NSW 2067
6 March, 1998