Saturday, December 16, 2006

Shock! Natural Claims Deceptive!

Promoters of herbal medicine have certain mantras they are keen to promote (in the commercial world of multinational corporations they are properly termed "slogans").

There's the mantra that, because they are "natural", herbal remedies are safer than pharmaceutical medicines with fewer or no side effects.

There's the mantra that herbal remedies are "gentler" than pharmaceutical medicines yet, strangely, just as effective.

There's the mantra that herbal remedies work better than pharmaceutical medicines because they contain other "synergistic" ingredients other than the active ingredients.

There's the mantra that scientific studies have "proved" all of the above.

While some herbal (and other natural) substances have been proven to be effective in certain situations, that product is then isolated and the dosage controlled, and the substance becomes part of normal medicine.

For the most part, the mantras of herbal remedies are just wishful thinking, as much as commercial slogans.

One company, Menopause Institute of Australia Pty Ltd, has made such claims about its Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy Program for the treatment of menopause. Unfortunately, the company's less than realistic claims (including that it is proven to be safer than conventional Hormone Replacement Therapy, and that it reduces the risk of various diseases including cancer) have come to the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted legal proceedings against Menopause Institute of Australia Pty Ltd and its managing director, Dr Gary Aaron, alleging misleading and deceptive conduct in the advertising and promotion of its Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy Program for the treatment of menopause. The ACCC has alleged in the Federal Court that Menopause Institute breached section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 by making misleading and deceptive representations.

As reported at Australian Doctor the company has come off fairly lightly, being required to write to former patients about the proceedings, and to put a notice on its website (located here, where the company states they have "made representations which were misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive about the safety and effectiveness" of its NHRT, though the front page link to it opens it in a popup and EoR wonders how many browsers will block this automatically?).

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