Tougher testing for alternative medicines

Wednesday, 30 April 2003

A leading researcher from the University of Adelaide has again called for alternative medicines to face the same rigorous testing and labelling requirements as standard pharmaceuticals.

Professor Alastair MacLennan, from the University's Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (Women's & Children's Hospital), is one of Australia's leading researchers into alternative medicines and therapies.

In 2002 he was co-author of a paper that showed Australians spend an estimated $2.3 billion a year on alternative medicines and therapies.

"While I do believe that some alternative medicines and therapies could be beneficial for some patients, I am concerned that many of these remain unproven from a scientific point of view," Professor MacLennan says.

"I'm also concerned that Australians spend four times as much on unproven therapies as on prescribed pharmaceuticals, which in most cases have been thoroughly tested."

Professor MacLennan says the public assumes that alternative medicines promote health and are safe, but in many cases their effectiveness and long-term safety remains unknown or has been disproven in scientific studies.

"It is only common sense that alternative medicines should face the same rigorous testing and labelling requirements as standard pharmaceuticals," he says.

"The public should have better evidence that their $2.3 billion a year is being put to sound use, and that the money they are spending on alternative medicines is not doing more harm than good."

Professor MacLennan's comments follow the recall this week of more than 200 products manufactured and supplied by Pan Pharmaceuticals, on the order of the national medicines watchdog, the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Pan is Australia's largest contract manufacturer of complementary medicines such as herbal, vitamin, mineral and nutritional supplements.


Contact Details


Emeritus Professor Alastair MacLennan
Head, Cerebral Palsy Research Group, Robinson Research Institute
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 1337
Mobile: +61 (0)400 383 144

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762