The Australian Medical Association have criticised the $4.7 billion industry that sells supplements and vitamins when they haven't been shown to work. A finding by Choice and explored in a Four Corner Investigation shows how Australian pharmacies have embraced complementary medicines with often unproven benefits, including vitamins, mineral and herbal supplements. Of 11,000 complementary products on the market in Australia, less than 500 were checked for compliance by the regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), with 80% of those actually tested having compliance breaches. Most of the breaches were missing efficacy data, which companies must be able to provide. Effectively products are being sold that have no testing data or proof that they work at all, and in fact may do some harm. The TGA is pushing for reforms, so that supplements are classed and labelled as having been tested, however industry is resisting changes and identification of ineffective products, claiming that there is a growing international trade which would disadvantage them.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia does not support the sale of vitamins and minerals, however there are no firm rules around their sale in pharmacies.
Choice sent undercover shoppers into 240 chemists around Australia, complaining of stress, with 59% being told that a complementary medicine product would work, and 24% being told that it was scientifically proven to work.
There was no evidence of homeopathy working found for 60 conditions reviewed by the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2014. Flower essence products — known as Bach flower remedies — have been show to have no effect over that of a placebo in reviews of clinical trials.
Supplements are also known as complementary medicine products, including herbs, vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements and homoeopathic medicines. The best selling supplements include krill oil, sports nutrition products (including protein powders), and calming and sleeping products.
Some complementary medicines have been proven to work, however many of the products sold in Australia do not match the dosages that have been clinically proven, for instance a chemical found in cranberry really does help prevent urinary tract infections, however many of the Australian products don't contain enough of the chemical to have any effect.
Soure: ABC News / Complementary medicines with unproven benefits being sold to Australian consumers; to be aired on Four Corners 13 February 2017