by Diana Johnston

The TGA - the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration - who are supposed to act as the public's watchdog in regard to therapeutic products and services, are fast earning a reputation for heavy-handed prohibition tactics.

While our Federal Government claims to support alternative treatments and products, as having an integral role to play, in providing the full range of health care options to Australians, at the same time they have granted the TGA sweeping new powers to control advertising (information) about such products.

Retailers, manufacturers and importers who dare to claim their product is safe, or who make any reference to an exhaustive list of physical and mental conditions, can now be dragged before a committee and even prevented from trading.

The use of verifiable testimonial quotes from satisfied customers, does not infringe the regulations as they stand, providing their content doesn't conflict with "accepted medical evidence". This term is not, of course, as broad as it seems. It refers specifically to the opinions of the National Health and Medical Research Council, who are free to veto and override findings by the most highly qualified practitioners, if they choose to do so.

One could argue that those who have been granted the privilege of formulating new TGA regulations, have a vested interest in suppressing competition and curtailing the public's right to choose. And the fact is, the new code is already being enforced, even though it has not yet been officially adopted. This has been permitted, supposedly in the interests of "consumer protection".

Following the disbanding of the Media Council of Australia, which previously supervised advertising standards (including TGA codes) an application to compile and administer a revamped code was lodged jointly by the PMAA and NFAA (Proprietary Medicines and Nutritional Foods Associations) who represent major drug and vitamin manufacturers and suppliers. In terms of self-interest, that is a bit like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. While the new code, if accepted, will be administered by a government department on one level - within the industry (that is to say, in the real world) this new council will wield considerable powers.

While legislation is obviously required to prevent snake-oil salesmen claiming to cure everything from dandruff to cancer, the new code effectively vetoes the publication of factual information, apart from stating the name, price and location where a product may be obtained. Eventual prohibition of all advertising and promotion of therapeutic goods and services is not an unrealistic scenario.

While some may consider advertising content to be outside their sphere of concern, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Moves by drug companies to infiltrate the natural therapies sector and suppress all competition is a global trend. Dubbed by those in the know as "the Codex Conspiracy" it is a world-wide movement with frightening potential. Codex is the name associated with a conglomeration of drug company giants, of which the Australian chapter is the Secretary through GATT. Consider what has already happened overseas.

In Canada for instance, herbs, botanicals and dietary supplements like amino acids are systematically being reclassified as drugs, and to manufacture or supply such products requires compliance with a myriad of government regulations. These regulations include the payment of hefty fees for the registration of each product - fees that small companies cannot possibly afford. However, large international drug cartels can meet these fees and, not surprisingly, are the power behind the move to standardise (they call it "harmonise") these regulations throughout the world.

Far from protecting people from their own ignorance, the new regulations allow large pharmaceutical companies to either eliminate from the market natural products perceived to be in competition with drugs, or alternatively to synthesise, then patent them - thus owning the rights to substances provided by nature.

When an article was written in praise of Bionic Products' Elanra Therapeutic ioniser, the TGA. criticised the story. Benefits and statements from satisfied users were swooped on by the TGA almost as if they were treason.

The TGA objected to the term 'safe' and especially objected to verbatim quotes from Elanra users who had been interviewed. They were incensed that inhaling small negative ions was of great benefit to asthma and allergy sufferers.

The ACCC, (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) whose task it was to accept or reject the new code, and admitted that the proposed advertising restrictions would stifle competition, will be removed from it's role as watchdog due to the TGA's move to Legislate the new Regulations in Parliament.

This happened to-day when the Governor General signed the new Bill. We have until March/April 1998 to object to this draconian legislation.

Only the loud voice of public opinion has any hope of reversing this world-wide trend. Mr Shaw invites readers to discuss this matter and to register their protests by contacting him at Bionic Products Pty. Ltd., P.O. Box 555, Robina, Qld. 4226 or phoning (07) 5593-1122 or writing to your Local Member or Dr Michael Woodridge (Minister for Health) P.O. Box 31 BOX HILL Victoria 3218 - Please send a copy of your letters to Bionic Products, just in case your letter is LOST.

For additional information, see the web site of the International Advocates for Health Freedom - or Bionic Products own site

December 19, 1997