Minister Annette Kings' Deceit of "Public Safety" - Public safety was the cry being used as the justification for The Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill. One presumes then that there must have been an ongoing safety problem in the natural products industry? The facts are in stark contrast to Minister Annette King's statement on Television and Radio that there had been three deaths.
Truth: Over half of all New Zealanders (at least 2 million) take supplements on a daily basis. In the last 20 years New Zealanders have chewed, gulped and swallowed their way through approximately 14,600,000,000 natural product capsules or tablets. That’s Fourteen Thousand Six Hundred Million tablets or capsules, and not one death.
Due to intense public interest, acting chair of the coroners council Dr Wallace Bain (a lawyer and a pharmacist) decided to find out how many people had died over the years because of taking health supplements. He probably thought there must be a lot to justify 494 pages of ‘safety’ legislation to dramatically increase bureaucracy.
Says Dr Bain…"I enquired of all Coroners as to whether or not from a search of their Coronial findings they could find any instances where there had been a problem with any of these natural products. “They were asked to provide any information from inquests where these products had been involved whether or not a death had resulted. At the same time the Coronial records held by the Ministry of Justice in Wellington were searched at my request by ministry staff.”
“What is ironic here is that what is being held out as a justification for high regulation and compliance in the area of complementary medicines and natural products in New Zealand is public safety and risk. Despite a diligent search of Coronial records and the literature, no instances have been found to demonstrate that in fact these products have any serious public health issue or risk.
“The problem is clearly with prescription and other drugs,” says Dr Bain. “The Coronial and literature searches in so far as natural products are concerned and linkages to public safety and risk can be described legally as De minimis no curat lex. That is – of minimal risk importance.
Dr Bain’s study returned a finding of zero deaths from natural remedies. Dr Bain does however support the need for regulation review of the natural products industry as do the industry itself.
Perhaps there is a growing number of deaths due to natural products happening elsewhere in the world and the New Zealand Government are concerned about that epidemic coming here? So lets look at the largest consumer of natural products on the planet - The United Sates of America. There has been not one death caused by vitamins according to the most recent statistics available from the US National Poisoning and Exposure Database. The 129-page annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers published in the journal Clinical Toxicology shows
zero deaths from multiple vitamins;
zero deaths from any of the B vitamins;
zero deaths from vitamins A, C, D, or E; and
zero deaths from any other vitamin.
Over half of the U.S. population take daily vitamin supplements. Even if each of those people took only one single tablet per day, that makes 145,000,000 individual doses per day, for a total of over 53 billion doses annually. Since many persons take additional vitamins, the numbers are considerably higher, and the safety of vitamins all the more remarkable. Not one death. In Contrast: Death in New Zealand in 1998 (the last year of detailed official statistics available) caused by adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs killed 1524 New Zealanders and deaths associated with medical injury (mistakes by doctors and medical staff) killed 4222 New Zealanders. Read more here. Not surprisingly the Medicines Act and the "Anti-Vitamin" Bill do not address this iatrogenic death toll. Legislation like these simple seek to re-classify natural products as toxic medicines in the same class as pharmaceutical drugs even though the risk factors are completely different. For what purpose might you suppose? Obviously to unfairly disadvantage the natural health industry that is growing and chunking away at market share of foreign multi-coporate phamaceutical companies.
Minister King Promotes "Fear" To Railroad Through Draconian Law
Minister Annette King referred to the finding of the drug Viagra in natural products. This was particularly misleading of Annette King. Most people were lead to believe that this was a widespread practice in the industry, that people did not care what was in their supplement. It promoted fear of the natural products industry unnecessarily.
Fear mongering is not new to this Minister. In early 2003 when she ordered a class one recall of over a thousand natural products manufactured from Pan without citing any evidence that they could cause imminent risk or death, which is what a class one recall is reserved for. This caused widespread fear and suspicion of the natural health industry at the time. More on this injustice at this link.
Truth: Our research through Medsafe has indicated that someone (probably a Chinese National) had imported a natural product for sexual dysfunction in unlabelled bags, and in bags labeled in Chinese. Medsafe found traces of Viagra in the products. We can only guess they were sold through a traditional Chinese health store to the local Chinese community. This is effectively the illegal importation of medicine or drugs. The person may not have known this is illegal, but there is already an abundance of legislation to deal with this.
We have current laws covering this and the culprits were caught and fined. There is no need to waste over seven million dollars of the tax payers money for more laws when the ones we have are working. This fear mongering and misleading statement of the Minister unfairly levels suspicion on the mainstream New Zealand supplements industry. Her comments on closer examination are much like saying there is a drug problem in the bakery industry because someone bakes some muffins with Marijuana at home – patently misleading and ridiculous.
The Blatant Lie of an Equal Partnership
Minister Annette King, and other supporters of a trans-Tasman agency (ANZTPA) bark on and on about the equal partnership of New Zealand and Australia. While Minster King has insisted upon New Zealand having a 50/50 relationship in the Ministerial Council -
Truth: She failed to mention that the actual regulations for which companies in New Zealand would have to be accountable for would be made up by the Managing Director of the Agency Board once the agency was formed! This MD is not accountable to the Board made up of 5 with one guaranteed New Zealander. Neither is the board responsible for reporting to this Ministerial Council on matters other than finance and administration.
We fail to see how a board of 5 members with one guaranteed New Zealander on it divides by 2 evenly for a 50/50 representation. Read for your self. We refer you to Articles 5, 6 and 7 of the JTA document. The Ministerial Council seems there for no other reason than to receive a report and advise of rules of how to run the agency, not the actual regulations by which New Zealand would be bound to. Further documents obtained under the Official Information Act indicate that about 93% of the staff of the agency would likely be Australians, and only 7% New Zealanders. We suggest Minister King's math may need some revision, especially in the area of percentages and fractions.
The Accusation of "thinly veiled claims"
This is a very important point. Annette King asserts that people selling natural products make all sorts of ‘thinly veiled claims’ which sounds quite sinister.
Truth: The Natural Product Industry can't make "thinly veiled claims" as Minister King suggests. Currently we have stringent advertising controls to ensure claims are backed up by data. In order to place an ad for a health product, a business has to have the content approved by a TAP’s auditor.
Consumers are already protected by the Consumer Guarantees Act, Medicines Act, Fair Trading Act and the Sale of Goods Act. There is no need for another 494 pages of ‘protection’. Currently claims are already watered down by laws when they shouldn’t have to be. Claims you hear on the radio or through print mediums are what is known as ‘soft claims’ - that is a retailer cannot state that glucosamine (for example) is clinically proven to help control the effects of arthritis even if there are clinical trials that prove that. They can only claim that it ‘may increase joint mobility’, while a pharmaceutical drug manufacturer can make ‘hard claims’ such as ‘clinically proven to reduce the affects of arthritis’.
In Contrast: ‘Hard claims’ are claims made by the drug industry. Unfortunately there is no independent research done before these drugs are approved. Statistical studies indicate that the results of these drug industry funded trials are biased and in some cases fraudulent presented.
This is an extremely serious issue as they are committing scientific fraud, and people are risking their lives in many cases. Many drug industry studies do not see the light of day, if they show results that drug companies don’t like. In a nutshell, the studies find that the results follow the source of funding, that is, the ‘funder’ expects the results to be good for their business.
If you want more proof ... A 2005 survey published in the journal Nature (one of the most prestigious science journals in the world) exposed the following practices…
- Falsifying or “cooking” research data
- Not properly disclosing conflicts of interest
- Failing to present contrary data
- Using inadequate or inappropriate research data
- Dropping observational data points and inadequate record keeping
The most disturbing finding was that of the 3247 scientists surveyed, over 20% actually admitted to changing the methodology, design or results due to pressure from the organization paying for the study. (ref: B.C. Martinson, M.S. Anderson, and R. de Vries, “Scientists Behaving Badly”, Nature 435 (2005): 737-38.
Now, one might assume that admitting scientific fraud could easily end your career so we suggest there would have been a certain amount of reluctance to admit such practice and so it is reasonable to assume that the actual number of industry scientists doing this is probably much higher.
Most recently this issue has been discussed on National Radio you can listen here: RNZ NTN: Drug Companies Concealing Negative Data. The UK regulator of medicines, the MHRA, undertook a four year investigation into the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline for hiding adverse test results of its anti-depressant drug Seroxat known as Aropax or Loximine in New Zealand. GlaxoSmithKline suppressed nine clinical trials as they showed the drug was ineffective in treating depression in under eighteen year olds and raised the risk of suicide behaviors. Which raises the question have their been trials suppressed that it has the same effect or no effect or adults?
Our Point? Don't believe everything the "researchers" or scientists from drug companies or drug company sponsored trials say without further investigation. They could be suppressing data, reinterpreting statistics or carrying out bogus tests. We refer you to our section on Medical Misadventure for factual data on this sort of carry-on.
The Accusation of "Scaremongering"
Health Freedom and members in the natural products industry have been accused by the Government and its bureaucrats of scaremongering when we say "Many New Zealand businesses will go to the wall due to the inappropriate high rise in compliance costs". Truth: Legislation of this kind is not new. Canada has lost over 47,000 safe natural products off the market since Health Canada's inception. A large number of products have become illegal to sell due to either the small companies inability to meet high compliance costs required by the pharmaceutical industry or the doses are declared to be therapeutic therefore illegal. A similar loss has occurred in Australia since the inception of the TGA. A whopping 80% of the natural products industry was wiped out with the now judged illegal raid on manufacturer Pan Pharmaceuticals. Click here for more details on the Pan Debacle. At the end of 2007 after the Labour led Government failed to get the numbers for its "Anti-Vitamin" Bill, an order had earlier been issued for Medsafe to start to educate the natural products industry to how ineffective the current legislation is. This has been viewed as retaliation by the Government and has resulted in the following:
- Website owners have been contacted with vague letters from MedSafe giving them little notice to comply.
- They have been told to remove sentences on their website and advertising material that pertain to the therapeutic benefits of certain natural substances, natural products and supplements.
- They have been told not to link to websites that have research proving their claims or to of have research proving their claims on their website if the website also has natural products on it.
- They have begun raiding small health food stores and confiscating products. We know of four stores at writing of this page.
These activities lead to several businesses loosing a substantial income and may even result in the loss of their business if Medsafe are allowed to continue. We are beginning to see the very same terror tactics the TGA used when it came into power.
The Labour led governments' argument for a trans-Tasman agency just doesn't stack up. They accuse the Health Freedom movement of the very same activities they are undertaking, "making false claims" and "scaremongering" when they say three people have died from taking supplements and public safety is at risk. The facts speak for themselves.