GroundUp Op-Ed: Complementary medicine companies are destroying consumer protection

Posted 31 May 2016

First published by GroundUp

What do these have in common?

  • Herbex Attack the Fat Syrup will help you lose weight.
  • Solal’s anti-ageing pill can increase your lifespan and improve heart function.
  • Antagolin combats insulin resistance and will help you to lose weight effectively.
  • USN’s Tribulus is a “testosterone booster” and “libido enhancer”.

They’re all claims by complementary medicine companies about products they sell. All of them are at best misleading, not properly tested and probably false. All were ruled against by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

And all four of these companies are doing their utmost to destroy the ASA. They may have succeeded, which means there is little protection left for consumers from misleading or unsubstantiated medical claims.

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Targeting school children in marketing campaigns for sports supplements: Is it ethical?

Posted 31 May 2016

On 17 April 2016, the journalist, Elaine Swanepoel drew our attention in the Afrikaans Sunday newspaper, Die Rapport, to USN targeting and marketing to sport supplements to children. Bizarrely, according to the report: “Yet says Albe Geldenhuys, head of USN, to Die Rapport, that primary school children should not under any circumstances be using supplements”. The text of this article, and commentary, is reproduced here.

In the South African Sports Medicine Association (SASMA) May 2016 newsletter, the selling of sports supplements to schoolchildren is addressed.

[quote]”SASMA considers such aggressive marketing as highly irresponsible, dangerous and somewhat unethical as the youth who are involved in the schooling system are vulnerable targets”[/quote]
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That makeup ad is probably lying to you

Posted 30 May 2016

This article was posted to Time Magazine in July 2015, but still have relevance.

New study reveals how many ads for cosmetics are inaccurate or false

Only 18% of all claims made in commercials for cosmetics are generally trustworthy, according to new research released Monday.

Cosmetics firms often use advertising verbiage like “clinically proven” or “inspired by groundbreaking DNA research.” But researchers combed through these claims and found that the majority were vague and many are outright lies, according to a new study published in the Journal of Global Fashion Marketing.

The researchers assessed 289 cosmetic ads, including ads for products like make-up, skincare and fragrance, featured in magazines like Vogue and Marie Claire. They then separated the various claims into different categories, including environmental claims, endorsement claims and scientific claims. The researchers rated them as “acceptable,” “vague,” “omission” or “outright lie.”

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Beware of Illegally Marketed Diabetes Treatments

Posted 30 April 2016

We have previously written about the MCC claiming that they will be taking action against “scores of illegal products claiming to treat diabetes, heart disease, cancer and viral illnesses in a blitz aimed at enforcing tough regulations for complementary medicines”. Products claiming to be effective in insulin control or diabetes, had to apply for registration. They will be evaluated to see whether their claims are justified, and the product safe, before registration is granted. Else they have to disappear from the market. Products that have applied for registration include the Medical Nutritional Institute’s AntaGolin, Brunel Laboratories’ Patrick Holford Cinnamon and Avid Brands’ Bioharmony Cinnabalance. We have argued that Antagolin’s evidence is problematic, and that the ingredients and dose in Holford’s Cinnamon inadequate to support their claims. We wait the MCC’s decision.

The U.S.A. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have released a media release warning against … Read the rest

Miracle Bleach Cure?

It’s little more than household bleach, but is touted as a cure for autism and a gut sanitiser that will cure almost anything from HIV to cancer. Pioneered but discredited in the United States, the mineral solution has now been brought to South Africa where the mixture, containing chlorine dioxide, is being administered to children. But there have been no clinical trials to test this so-called ‘miracle solution’ and experts say it’s downright dangerous. Carte Blanche investigates: Video


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Does Cocoa Butter work for stretch marks?

Posted 17 May 2016

Niccy, a reader of CamCheck asks: “Hi, does Cocoa Butter formula really work for stretch marks.”

We searched PubMed for studies about Cocoa Butter and stretch marks.
(“PubMed comprises more than 26 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites”)

We found 5.

None support the claims that cocoa butter is effective for stretch marks.

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Court action: Herbex vs ASA

Posted 15 May 2016

As a consumer, do you care about whether or not the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has “jurisdiction” over the advertising of a product or a company selling certain products? Or do you want to be sure that the advertising is not false and misleading, so that you don’t waste your hard-earned money?

In court judgement dated 5 May, the Gauteng local division of the High Court ruled that the ASA had no jurisdiction over Herbex, because Herbex was not a member of the ASA. The overriding issue of interest to consumers is not about jurisdiction, but about whether or not the products work as claimed in the advertising. The issue of “effectiveness” was not included in the court challenge. However the EFFECT of the jurisdiction ruling, has left the issue of the effectiveness of the products (and their advertising) unaddressed. The previous rulings of the … Read the rest

Medicines Control Council warns against the use of the unregistered medicine, Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS)

Posted 13 May 2016

Press release

Medicines Control Council warns against the use of the unregistered medicine, Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) and similar products for the treatment of medical conditions

 Date: 15 May 2016

 At its 77th meeting on 21-22 April 2016, the Medicines Control Council (MCC) expressed their concern over the use of an unregistered medicine sold as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) by the public. Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) has been claimed to be effective in the treatment of various medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, autism, type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. It is claimed that Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) can remove impurities from the body. Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) is allegedly sold by the Genesis II Church, using a pyramid-type marketing and distribution scheme.

[quote]The Medicine Law Enforcement Unit of the Department of Health is continuing to investigate the sale of these products and may pursue… Read the rest

A commonly used herbal remedy can cause kidney disease in up to 10 percent of the population

Posted 13 May 2016

This article in Science Alert, reminds us that not all herbal supplements are harmless.

[quote]A whole lot of people use herbal remedies with the assumption that even if they don’t work, they’re not really doing any harm. But a new journal article offers a timely reminder that that’s not always the case. In fact, one of the most commonly used herbal remedies, Aristolochia (AKA birthwort or Dutchman’s pipe), has been shown to trigger kidney failure and cancer in roughly 5-10 percent of the population, who have a genetic susceptibility to one of its compounds.[/quote]
[quote]”It took years of epidemiological and molecular research to demonstrate that Aristolochia, a widely used herbal remedy, causes cancer and kidney failure,”they add. “This and similar lessons should inspire more global efforts to properly investigate the safety and efficacy of all herbal treatments.”[/quote]

Or as Richard Dawkins wrote in A Devil’s

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Patrick Holford’s Cinnamon/Cinnachrome product for diabetes

Posted 12 May 2016

Self-proclaimed nutrition expert Patrick Holford addressed Cape Town residents on Sunday 8th May 2016 at a City-sponsored event on diabetes and healthy lifestyle choices. This event is discussed by Naib Mian in a GroundUp article. We have previously asked whether Holford is scientifically incompetent, or simply a liar, a peddler of snake oil supplements. Holford is a self-styled nutritionist, has no formal degree from an established accredited institution, and is not a doctor. Dr Ben Goldacre, author of the books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, devoted a whole chapter to Holford, and on his website.

But this is what is relevant: Patrick Holford addressed the city on diabetes. Through Brunel Laboratoria, (sic) he promotes/sells a product in South Africa, called Cinnamon, for diabetes. Patrick_Holford_Cinnamon

This product, a combination of ingredients, has never been tested in a single clinical study that can be … Read the rest