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Australia

Industry body slams watchdog for reinventing the claims wheel

By RJ Whitehead , 03-Sep-2014

Industry body slams watchdog for reinventing the claims wheel

Australia’s complementary medicines chief has hit out at an an inquiry into “the promotion of false or misleading health-related information or practices” by the New South Wales committee of the Healthcare Complaints Commission (HCCC).

The inquiry has been self-referred by the HCCC to consider measures to address the promotion of unscientific health-related information or practices, and is focused on claims made by individuals who are not recognised health practitioners.

This week, Carl Gibson, the chief executive of Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA), while presenting to the NSW Committee of the Healthcare Complaints Commission, queried the rationality of its move.

Value for taxpayers’ money?

In 2012-13, the Healthcare Complaints Commission received 10 complaints about unregistered health practitioners providing incorrect or misleading information, out of a total of 4,554 complaints about health service providers in New South Wales. Only 114 complaints—or 3%—related to unregistered health practitioners for that period,” Gibson said.

With two in every three people using complementary medicines and only 10 complaints recorded about provision of incorrect or misleading information, I think it’s fair to ask if this Inquiry is a good use of taxpayers’ money.

It should also be highlighted, and indeed a number of the submissions to the Inquiry have done so, that there is already sufficient legislation in NSW to address dissemination of misleading or deceptive information.” 

Over the top

To illustrate his point that there are already laws to protect consumers through established processes, Gibson cited Australian consumer law, which states that it is “unlawful for a business to make a statement in trade or commerce that is misleading or deceptive or would be likely to mislead or deceive.”

He also singled out a section of the Public Health Regulation 2012 that contains a code of conduct to directly address false and misleading information which applies to all health practitioners, whether or not the person is registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.

CMA supports the current initiative for an independent national registration and  accreditation scheme for naturopaths, Western herbalists and nutritionists. An independent register will provide increased confidence to the Australian public that the vast majority of complementary healthcare practitioners practise in a safe, competent and ethical manner.

Any further inquiry for increased regulatory scope, prior to the implementation of a national code of conduct and the ongoing work towards the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme appears somewhat excessive,” said Gibson.

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