Thank you Russel, I'm none too good at the whole sciencey thing (a BA in Phil and Pol Sci will do that to ya) but you've managed to explain this to me fairly clearly.
So if there were a myspace blog, I'd be giving you 2 Kudos. The highest of the myspace blog awards.
PS: No Right Turn skewers the journalists who ran with a meaningless Sensible Sentencing Trust poll without bothering to check their cource.
Source. Still, while I've had my *cough* disagreements with I/S's lurches into 'Murder Energy' hysterics recently, it was a righteous ballocking. Then again, it's not as if recycling press releases -- based on shonky polls and/or social pseudo-science -- without any kind of basic reporting isn't exactly a recent innovation of the spin trade.
Despite having a family member in the natural health business I'm also ambivalent about this bill. Her product is topical, i.e ya rub it on, but it will still be affected.
However what you didn't talk about Russell is that pretty much everyone, on both sides of the debate, has a huge vested interest . The pressure coming from the Australian government is very strong and that reflects lobbying from Australian companies who see it as a very easy way to pick up another 4 million consumers. It has nothing to do with their concerns for the NZ user.
The flip side is that New Zealand companies that embrace the regulation will also have access to a much larger market. As long as they have the capital necessary to register and test their ingredients. Otherwise that's it for them game over, time to start a new business importing sofa covers from China.
Also you can't mention some deaths from people taking supplements while not also mentioning this. It just comes off as a little disingenuous. Because you are making the argument to regulate an industry which kills a few people every now and again and not mentioning another, hugely regulated industry that kills thousands globally. So one cannot assume that regulation will fix any of the problems. What I know regulation will do though is concentrate the manufacturing of these products to a much smaller group of companies. And I don't know if that is a good thing. Should we really just regulate these sole traders out of existence?
I caught a bit of rankin on astrology and was disgusted I had turn off the radio. Ugh...
I can't quite decide on the bill. I understand and agree with your arguments russell - a lot of bollocks is talked about "natural" remedies.
I have HIV, and I remember the utter crap that was peddled to us by quacks in the 80s and 90s. Nearly all the people i know who embraced all that shit are dead, while those of us who took meds that had been tested on kittens and puppies by scientists in white coats in labs are still around. Keep your hippy shit and give me Western medicine any day.
But I do have some reservations over the way this has been handled - maybe it's just that the govt hasn't been at its best in getting its point across.
Wish Sue wouldn't veer between common sense and utter nuttiness like this.
Still though, I hope the new legislation won't put a spanner in the wheel for my new line in Ayurvedic Immune Boosting supplements. They contain what I find in the garden, like ants, cat shit, old fruit, dead rodents/birds and leaves, dessicated, ground up and pressed into convenient pills.
Got a super strapline as well from an ancient Swami - "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" - and killer design for the $90 each vials.
Orders taken soon and yes, Vista/Mastercard will do nicely.
Also you can't mention some deaths from people taking supplements while not also mentioning this. It just comes off as a little disingenuous.
I did link to the Public Citizen "wrong pills" stuff, which is very frank about some big pharma drugs (and I've written at length about the dubious practices of Roche and others in the past). But I think there's a clear understanding that medical drugs may have unpleasant side effects - that's why you do a risk/benefit analysis.
What annoys me is the blithe insistence from some quarters that this commercial industry shouldn't be regulated because its products are "traditional" and "harmless", even when there's clear evidence of harm. Some people with clear commercial interests seem to regard themselves as saints.
This weird jingoism - it'll be run by Australians! Ewwww! -- is a keynote of the argument.
I was going to say that this idea foolishly suggests that herbal remedies have different effects on Australians and New Zealanders, but from what I know of some beliefs surrounding herbal remedies, I would not be at all surprised if there were people who actually believe this.
I'm currently right on the verge of lurching into alternative therapy for my annoying condition, eczema. Traditional treatments of steroid cream have finally exhibited the long expected side effects of thin skin. The alternative posed by my doctor scares me, immunosuppressants. The main fear is their side effects are mostly cancer.
However, what stops me jumping straight into eating all sorts of weird chinese herbs is that at least the doctors can tell me what the chances of cancer are from clinical trials. And they are extremely slight. With herbal remedies, which typically are a shotgun blast at your entire metabolism, with mystical sounding explanations like liver-cleansing and toxin removal, I can't get any real information about the risks at all. Just anecdotes. And sorry, that's just not good enough for my health.
I agree with the Libertarian argument that we should be allowed to take anything we want, but I think anyone selling mass produced health treatments is under an obligation to provide real clinical information on the effects. Certainly they should not be able to lie or fabricate evidence.
Naturally I've asked the doctors about what effect dietary changes could have, and their answer has in every case been "No clear causes and effects are known". They're not saying it all doesn't work, but they certainly aren't going to recommend anything.
And this ambiguity is what the entire herbal healing world trades on. Many people read "hasn't been proved to be harmful" to be "not harmful" and "could help eczema" to "does help eczema". It's lazy thinking for a lazy industry trading on ignorance and hope, and it's a pity because many of these herbal remedies *could* be of great benefit to me.
The "traditional" or "natural" qualifyer has been used to excuse a lot of ills, and it always dissapoints me how many people seem to buy into it when it comes to treatment. However I would need to see a level of argument or reason that is lacking so far to convince me that an industry that purports to have medical benefit not be closely regulated.
Am I the only person who finds that the same Sue Kedgley who campaigns long and hard to make sure that we know everything that goes into our food products is quite happy to have no safeguards over what we ingest, inhale etc as long as it is an "natural" or "traditional" medicine.
To be honest I'd be more concerned about what is contained by some of these (including real pharmaceutical drugs in some cases) rather than what is contained in my can of soy beans. If we are going to apply strict standards to our foodstuffs for consumer protection and health then surely the same should go for health supplements.
The industry has also been aware that this change was likely for a long time. I went to a SCIANZ course on cGMP and GLP (the procedures used for the manufacture and testing of drugs and medical devices) 6 or 7 years ago, and there were people from health supplement/medicine companies there looking at how to upgrade their facilities to sell to Australia and in preparation for simlilar laws in NZ.
Anyone who thinks the industry will regulate themselves should check out this
Juha, you're on the wrong track. It's much better to push a remedy that has no effect at all beside placebo, than one which actually takes a real punt. You can't get busted if your vial of a liquid scientifically indistinguishable from plain tap water provides only a placebo effect. But you could if one in 10 people who drank it died.
The real art is in the packaging...call it 'Tincture of Potency', put a picture of some especially potent animal on it, an interesting chinese character, and it will suck in anyone seeking herbal viagra. Better yet, have a range of tinctures, so they buy the whole lot.
There are millions of whacky salespeople out there quite happy to whack a huge margin on your water, as a compliment to their therapies.
Even the placebo effect is worth having. Unfortunately for me, it doesn't work when you know it's a placebo.
Nearly all the people i know who embraced all that shit are dead, while those of us who took meds that had been tested on kittens and puppies by scientists in white coats in labs are still around. Keep your hippy shit and give me Western medicine any day.
This deserves to be widely circulated.
When it comes down to it, some people treat it as axiomatic that the natural (whatever that is) is superior; the traditional is correct, and the older the tradition the more correct; that foreign, obscure and vague "knowledge" is more correct (the more distant the origin and the more obscure the better); and that herbs are always good and never ineffective, let alone poisonous. And when I say axiomatic, I mean those people will never ever be persuaded otherwise, because their convictions rest on a deep and emotional foundation. I don't think we should label these people insane, because if mere illogic were insanity, we'd all be comittable; but we shouldn't let them anywhere near policy.
I had the bizarre experience this weekend of sitting at a table across from someone extolling the benefits of homeopathy, while the person next to us was injecting her lunchtime insulin. If I'd had my wits about me I'd have asked where the homeopathic treatments for diabetes were...
It is a little bizarre that the Greens take the "mainstream science" approach to global warming but not to what are, essentially, pharmaceuticals.
A little arsenic was one favoured cure all of the past. Quite natural.
The sad fact is that there are a lot of people in the Greens who are just not concerned with rationality. They will happily quote science to persuade YOU, but they're not really interested otherwise. These are the people for whom anthroposophy is as valid as chemistry. That's the biggest single reason why I may vote for the Greens every now and then, for pragmatic political reasons, but I can't ever join them.
(As an aside, if you make up any old crap, as long as there's a lot of it, and it takes extensive study to master, there will be people who value it, on the grounds that anything that takes long study to master must have something it in it.)
Stephen, don't ask. You'll find there's a much more natural form of insulin at 1000 times the cost, extracted from the balls of a live goat. Or it could just be normal insulin.
I've sat in on a reasonable number of very long Select Committee meetings on this Bill (non-vested interest stylez) and I really only wanted to add that Russell, you did a great job of summing up the issues.
It was easy to laugh away the (many) crazies, and view Foodstuffs with wariness when they complained about regulatory costs ruining their pharmaceutical expansion plans, but tougher to deal with the small business owners who all seemed to have at least anecdotal evidence of their products working, and are facing bankruptcy if this Bill becomes law.
However, the hypocrisy of the anti-regulation lobby was pretty astonishing, as you aptly outlined. While there are some definite and serious downsides to a transtasman regulatory body, all the time spent on spurious aspects of the Bill are hampering our efforts to pass law for the good of the country.
Try something like Michael Castleman's The Healing Herbs. Every entry comes with a list of warnings, side-effects, dosage, what the actual active ingredient is, what studies have been done, and the FDA's opinion on the herb. About licorice, the herb he lists as a treatment for eczema, he says:
For otherwise healthy nonpregnant nonnursing adults who do not have a history of heart disease or stroke and are not taking digitalis-like medications, licorice is considered relatively safe when used cautiously in amounts typically recommended for brief periods.
Licorice should be used in medicinal amounts only in consultation with your doctor. If licorice causes minor discomforts such as stomach upsets or diarrhea, use less or stop using it. Let your doctor know if you experience unpleasant effects or if the symptoms for which the herb is being used to not improve significantly in two weeks.
Frankly, I wish I'd been that well informed by my GP when he put me on the contraceptive pill.
I've been growing and using herbal remedies since back before they were trendy and I've never found it hard to find well-informed unbiased information as long as you're getting it from someone who isn't trying to sell you something.
Like anything else.
A little arsenic was one favoured cure all of the past. Quite natural.
Ah yes... and back in the day cocaine was a brain tonic, speed was a harmless diet aid, and the all-natural treatment for epilepsy was a vigorous round of exorcisms - which may have killed you but hey! no more fits. :)
I have a flatmate who disagrees. He asserts benefit from the placebo effect, even when he know's what he's taking can't work (e.g. near instant relief from anti-hay fever stuff). Immediate benefit, even though it cannot work that fast, and he knows it cannot work that fast.
Emma, the problem is "natural" remedies that are not so well studied or documented, provided by people who wouldn't give a rats' about double-blind trials anyway. I'm all for, say, St John's Wort for depression, or kavakava to help me sleep, as long as the effects are known, and the quality of the supply verified. But I have a big problem with someone offering some Vedic remedy which has never been subjected to rigorous trials, containing lord knows what, on the basis that thousands of years of traditional medicine can't be wrong.
But I have a big problem with someone offering some Vedic remedy which has never been subjected to rigorous trials, containing lord knows what, on the basis that thousands of years of traditional medicine can't be wrong.
. . . but would you have such big a problem if you had some terminal condition, you'd tried all the stuff detailed in medical literature without success, then some young Yogi offered you Vedic Beaver Tail Milk Weed Extract Pills (Tm), and they worked . . ?
That sort of marketing is huge. In this whole argument, we all need to take into account that that sort of person represents some of the consumption . . . sure, it's that kind of person exploi- er, I mean targeted by that side of the industry, but still, that consumer mentality does affect the whole supply-and-demand-curve-ness of it all . . .
interesting stuff, yes the men in white coats keep me alive and do a great job of it, but like everything we need the right to decide for ourselves, and to be aware that letting any one put something in to your body without knowing what it is and are sure in your own mind that its ok. i have a prescription before me prescribing cyclosporin and ciprofloxacin, read the medsafe page and it says if they are to be taken together 'A transient rise in the concentration of serum creatinine was observed when ciprofloxacin and cyclosporin were administered simultaneously. Therefore, it is necessary to monitor the serum creatinine concentrations in these patients frequently (twice a week).' and off i went to thailand for 3 weeks, i didn't take the cipro stuff.
good to see tv3 doing a great job promoting the opiates on cambell live, look forward to seeing more of the opiate inspired art , alice in wonderland etc, rather than the rubbish coming out of the methamphetamine fueled creators abounding these daze.
Emma, the problem is "natural" remedies that are not so well studied or documented, provided by people who wouldn't give a rats' about double-blind trials anyway.
Oh, absolutely, I agree, and it pisses me off that people like that, and those that push tapwater-in-a-bottle, discredit the areas of 'alternative' medicines that are well-researched and conducted with caution. But the post I quoted above used the phrase "And this ambiguity is what the entire herbal healing world trades on". Hence my response.
I think Emma Hart has it exactly right. People need to take ownership of their own health. The assumption that this piece of regulation will improve the situation seems fallacious and both sides are pushing their agenda on a purely commercial basis.
If you visit a GP without doing your homework first you are quite likely to have a negative outcome or be dosed with an unnecessary drug. If you visit a homeopath at least you are just getting a placebo.
My last visit to a GP, for an ingrown facial hair, she insisted on giving me a course of antibiotics and became really snarky when I told her that I didn't want them and thought they were completely unnecessary in this situation. She even had a colleague come in and give me a little lecture that concluded with "A hundred years ago we didn't even have antibiotics!" (wtf?) but he just huffed at my rejoinder which was "and in a hundred years we won't have any effective ones if you keep on prescribing them for no reason"
You have to wonder what their agenda is and how much of their post university training is subsidised by pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Not everyone who creates a natural health product is a quack. The focus of this discussion seems to be on those who are. However they won't be affected by this legislation anyway. Those people who just make up bogus claims can always sell you magic water.
A little arsenic was one favoured cure all of the past. Quite natural.
Yup, it cured Phar Lap real good.
I'd have asked where the homeopathic treatments for diabetes were
Many of the arguments against miracles at this site apply to homeopathy and related 'natural' remedies.
I caught a bit of Penn & Teller's Bullshit last night, railing agaist hypnotherapy. They froth at the mouth a bit, but are always entertaining and a lot more accurate than the ones they're calling bullshit on.
(I thought about joining the Sceptics Society, but I figured that's probably just what they want me to do.)