Complementary medicines don’t work: AMA

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A CHOICE study questions the efficacy of complementary medicines and supplements, with questions also arising as to whether they should be recommended by pharmacists.

Around seven out of 10 Australians take some form of supplement. However, health experts say there is very little evidence that they work.

The same experts say that, because of the prominent shelf space supplements occupy in pharmacies, and because one in three pharmacists recommend some form of alternative medicine to combat conditions such as stress, most Australians just assume that complimentary medicine is effective.

While vitamins can be useful for treating specific deficiencies, Australians who habitually use multivitamins “are pissing money down the toilet”, says Adjunct Associate Professor Ken Harvey from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.

“What you need is a good diet,” he added.

This is a point on which the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) agrees.

“Vitamin and mineral supplements can play an important role for the 52 per cent of Australian adults who do not eat the recommended intake of fruit or the 92 per cent who do not eat the recommended intake of vegetables each day.”

Other key findings in the CHOICE study include:

  • 46 per cent of pharmacists recommend products containing a mixture of B vitamins and possibly other vitamins, minerals and herbs
  • 26 per cent recommend Bach flower remedies to treat stress
  • eight per cent recommend magnesium supplements.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is concerned about the lack of evidence showing that these types remedies work.

“What a lot of Australians have is very expensive urine,” said AMA President Michael Gannon.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is pushing for reform that compels companies to prove the value of such therapies.

“The new reforms will support Australian consumers make informed choices about the use of complementary medicines and help protect consumers from potentially misleading therapeutic claims”.

Read more at CHOICE

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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64 Comments

Total Comments: 64
  1. 0
    0

    Have you ever seen a complementary medicine which says anything but “this may help”.
    I cannot understand why local Pharmacy’s continue to sell and recommend the use of these items. Well yes, I can because of the large return they obtain by selling the gear. If the products are so good they should be prepared to submit them to the Pharmacy drug management organisations for verification.

    As a large Circus owner once said ” There is one born every minute”.

    Eat your vegies and greens – have lots of fresh fruit and the fresh meats in reasonable quantities and save on the medication bill. I bet that you won’t even notice the difference in not taking these snake oil cures.

    • 0
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      Blood and hair tests will show if you lack any vitamins. There are just as many pharmaceuticals on the market that do nothing too. Many of the fruits and vegetables being sold today are stored in cool rooms for weeks before thy are sold. They have been grown in soils that never get rested. They are picked unripened and treated with anti-bacterial solutions to last longer and get packed in plastic. You can’t tell me none of the nutrient content does not get destroyed.

    • 0
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      Jackie, How fresh do you think the food was before refrigeration. Or when it had to travel on horse and cart to get to market. How did we manage in winter when a lot of food was unavailable. Today we have food from all over world. How lucky we are. These companies are marketing the believe we need all these produces when we are not sick.

    • 0
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      Nan Im sorry but you are behind the times. Food has been so genetically modified that most nutrition has gone from food. Scurvy is well and truly alive in Australia from our food. The best solution is to go organic and eat lots of organic fruit and veg

    • 0
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      Jackie,

      A severe case of CRAP. I buy most of my vegetables direct from the producer or grow them myself. I am nearly 80, I enjoy the gardening etc. This summer I planted two tomatoes and from them and two self sown plants I fed my family and friends, made my daughter some of Dad’s tomato and Onion gravy {mine never tastes like yours], froze some and made some sauces and puree for the winter. Every summer morning I have two types of melon for breakfast direct from the grower. I am currently watching my butternut pumpkin produce and my climbing beans are on their way. And do you know what, I live in a unit. It is possible to self produce you know.

    • 0
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      Well done Dougie, my tomatoes were dud this year, I think bad seedlings, will grow from seed next year.

    • 0
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      Dougie I grew enough tomatoes this year and over half of them away, made lots of sauce for pasta dishes and some tomato relish.

      If you want more plants you can grow them form the laterals you remove as the plants grow. We are currently harvesting from the laterals as the main crop has exhausted itself.

      If you give your climbing beans a good fertilise after you harvest first crop you will get another one a few weeks later. We also grow heaps of carrots, cucumbers, zucchinis and pumpkins. The mangoes have just ripen nicely and the bats are getting what we can’t get. I had to buy onion this week for the first time in over six months.

      It is so easy to grow a lot of what you eat. We give away and swap a lot of what we produce.

    • 0
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      Ted, scurvy is on the rise because people are NOT eating fruit and veg organic or not. And just for your information independant testing has shown there to be no nutritional difference between organic and non-organic fruit and veg. The only value pf organic produce is the lack of pesticide residue on the skins. And fruit with thick skins such as bananas and oranges for example are a waste pf money if you buy organic since the residue cannot penetrate the skin.

      Buy organic by all means (if you can afford it) but don’t do it thinking it is nutritionally ‘better’. It isn’t.

    • 0
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      KSS
      Almost ALL modern sprays are “Systemic” which means that they cannot be “Washed Off” and will be taken up into the plants “Digestive System” and distributed to EVERY cell of the sprayed produce.

    • 0
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      Where is your information about organics from KSS? From what I have read organic is more nutritious. And why support any growers who use hormone disrupting bee killing chemicals. Also you have to be aware of genetically modified plants which organic is not,plus organic growers are smaller scale and are often fresher, the taste is the best. Organic in supermarkets is often not as fresh and packaged with plastic with higher prices, but go to a organic greengrocer or farmer’s market and buy in season. Buying out of season makes organics too expensive otherwise it is not that much difference in cost.

    • 0
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      Musicveg,

      Yes I only bought 2 x tomato seedlings this year, neither fruited as well as or as long as the three that were self sown and transplanted. The seed must have come from the compost as there were two Roma bushes which I have never grown, but boy did they fruit.
      Last year I had a problem with yellow blight in seedlings I bought from Bunnings, contacted the supplier/ grower and was treated with great ignore.
      My secret in the vegie patch is chookie poo direct from the farm and used in my compost bin with scraps etc. Great for garden or lawn if hosed in. Quick to mature so ready for use in four weeks.

    • 0
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      Thanks for the tips Dougie, we need a gardening section on this site. Yes I bought them from Bunnings and the leaves were all yellow, now I know, will never buy seedlings again from Bunnings. I never have any luck with cucumbers either, they either don’t grow or turn into zucchinis. I will get serious next spring with seeds.

  2. 0
    0

    Complimentary medicines do have their place but the open slather approach of zero control on the claims made for their efficacy leads to misuse and blatant misrepresentation.
    Dougie is correct when he suggest a balanced diet with emphasis on vegies and fruit with limits on meat.

    • 0
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      I am not meaning that a balanced diet is wrong, but it would be lovely to eat the things I did 20 years ago! Avocado for years affected me, I am now starting to eat them. But cannot use a dressing on the salad just some salt and pepper.

    • 0
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      Ann, have you looked at the fodmap friendly diet, go to Monash University website to find details, it may help you, it helped me a lot.

  3. 0
    0

    The TV advertising says something like: :If it does not work, see your medical practitioner.
    Why spend money on an alternative when you can go to a bulk billing medical practice and see you GP first.
    The visit costs nothing ( but your time) and the proper medicine if on the MBS around $6.50

    • 0
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      Our GP doesn’t bulk bill all the time, there are starting to be more and more GPs that don’t bulk bill. It is pot luck visiting the GP it can cost us $66 or nothing. Yes I am considering changing the GP but it is a pain to get all the information sent through and one cannot tell what ‘comments’ are put on the file to the new GP who could get the wrong impression of their new patient.
      This would be an interesting thread to start about GPs!

    • 0
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      Not for me it isn’t. Fully self funded and all medical visits and drugs cost quite a bit more than $6.50.

      Besides medical surgeries are full of people with contagion. Not very safe places to be if you can fix whatever by decent diet, exercise, relaxation and a few extra vitamins/ minerals.

      I believe the monthly massage and the regular meditation does more than my lovely doctor can baring essential maintenance and possibly surgery.

    • 0
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      Its a no brainer Ann, visit your Doc once and get the right information or keep on throwing money down the toilet forever

    • 0
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      Doctors don’t always get it right, btony, my doctor suggested I start taking a calcium supplement. However, a bit of research indicated that calcium supplements can heighten the risk of heart attack.

    • 0
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      When we were in the UK, my medication I take daily for a Thyroid complaint was free for people over 50. Pity they don’t bring that in here in Australia.

    • 0
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      Triss, where did your research come from? CSIRO, The Lancet, Well credentialed Universities or the internet.
      I’ll go with the doc

    • 0
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      Easier said than done btony!

    • 0
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      btony, I read the reports at the Johns Hopkins Medical site and NPS Medicinewise, both are supposedly evidence based.

    • 0
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      Triss,
      Magnesium in the form of citrate is relatively bioavailable.

      Due to deteriorated Soil Health, diets in most parts of the world (especially in 1st world countries) no very available in the food grown and therefore most people – even on a good diet – are short of this mineral.

      Calcium CANNOT be absorbed without adequate magnesium in the human system and therefore Mg should be supplemented when taking Calcium supplements.

      It is my understanding that a magnesium citrate supplement will improve “Heart Health” rather than deteriorate it.

      “Walter Last” has some excellent articles on Magnesium!!!

      Shortage of Magnesium in our diets is a major cause of “Bone Deterioration”.

  4. 0
    0

    Well I used to agree to the 3 comments here. But………Much to my horror, my bone density tests started to point out a fact that my old body is not absorbing Vit D. Much as I love gardening and spend lots of time in the garden. So now for the rest of my days I am on 2000mg of Vit D3. Unless I take this my body will not make use of the calcium taken. Now husband is having Vit B injections, and there are quite a number of people taking Vit B. So putting supplements down is not fair. I am aware some women go overboard taking supplements. Some like St Johns Wart can cause issues with standard medications it has been pointed out. But I do not take that, I will take the odd Zinc tablet as I have 3 auto immune problems. So on this topic we cannot generalize I feel.

    • 0
      0

      My immunologist professor told me long ago that the only things one might need are Vitamin D and maybe calcium.
      I take Vit D because some of my meds strip it out or prevent me making enough myself. I don’t use the most expensive one either, 1000 iu is 1000 iu no matter what form it is in, tablets or gel caps, tablets are much cheaper, and please don’t tell me gel is absorbed faster, because how do you know, do you get a rush or something?

    • 0
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      btony: There is vitamin D and there is vitamin D3.
      There is a difference, the Vitamin D is synthetic and the Vitamin D3 is naturally occurring. This D3 (after blood tests performed by my doctor) is currently being touted as being beneficial not only for one’s bones and calcium absorption but for people suffering respiratory problems. It has been said people are benefitting from respiratory problems of Vitamin D3 injections. Today it has been indicated the results are so positive food manufacturers may be required to add it to their foods, just like Folate, for instance.

      I need to take Magnesium and again, there are so many forms of magnesium, so one needs to know the right one to take and the best person to see for advice is one’s doctor or a really good pharmacist, there are good pharmacists.

      I had taken so many different magnesiums and none were doing what they were required to do, for me.

      Everything fell into place when I spoke to my doctor and he advised I was on the wrong type. In the last four months my blood pressure has decreased substantially from Hypertensive II to Hypertensive I and currently pre-Hypertensive. My magnesium supplement is only available from two sources in my town in country NSW, namely: The Naturopath Practitioner attached to my GO VITA Health Food outlet (not on the shelves in the store) and only one of three pharmacies in my town. It is a “practitioner only” magnesium.

      When these reports surface it is a pity an addendum to them stating the person(s) universities etc. conducting the trials (or whatever) is being financed by, for instance, a company/pharmaceutical company or the like who would benefit from these “adverse” findings.

    • 0
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      Ann, I was low on Vit D3 as well and when I did a bit of research on it K2 seemed to make it more efficient so I take them both together now.

    • 0
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      Mitzy,Vitamin D is not synthetic.
      Vitamin D cover both forms of Vitamin D,viz, D2 and D3, there are no other forms of Vitamin D.
      D2 can be found in milk and other things like plants, while D3 is a product of photosynthesis on the skin of humans and animals. D2 can cause problems if not taken properly

    • 0
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      And , yes, I did mean D3 in my initial reply

    • 0
      0

      btony: I should have indicated there is Vitamin D2 and D3. Most of the prescriptions from doctors are for Vitamin D2 and this is synthetic according to various articles I’ve read. Yes, D2 is in our milk and it is listed as being synthetic. D3 is the natural and recommended supplement since the 1990’s when further research indicated D2 was harmful in some instances.

    • 0
      0

      It’s getting late in the day – I should have said the D2 in the milk is synthetic due to the processing of the milk (homogenization).
      There are lots of common vitamins used in the foods we eat and become synthetic by the process. A, B1, B2, B6, B12, Folic Acid, C (Ascorbic Acid) D (Irradiated ergosteral calciferol), E dl-alpha tocopheral, tocopheral acetate and tocopheral succinate.
      If you don’t really need them, I tend to agree with the various opinions, we are creating expensive urine. And, there is the problem that some of them don’t excrete and cause other problems with kidneys and livers. It’s a minefield.

    • 0
      0

      MITZY,
      It was so much simpler when our food was wholesome and nutritious without being laced with poisons!

    • 0
      0

      okey dokey, avagoodweegend

  5. 0
    0

    Being convinced the supplement will keep you healthy, ease the joints, boost energy etc is often enough to work. Why worry about it if it makes a person think they are better.

    Pharmaceutical drugs often have very serious side effects and have after decades been shown to be an inefficient treatment. But if the person thinks it fixes them it often does.

    I can’t see the difference.

    I take mineral supplements and the odd bit C if I need it i.e. a cold or flu, after vaccines for travel.

    People waste a lot of money on all sorts of things they believe of benefit to lifestyle that are absolutely not necessary at all.

    • 0
      0

      Recently we have found someone we know are spending a fortune on supplements thanks to a GP……this goes back to the old saying ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’
      Taking the odd zinc tablet is good for people that have issues with healing of the skin. So I keep my zinc tablets handy for that reason. But I don’t take them daily as that can be dangerous.

    • 0
      0

      what isnt being discussed is the fillers that are in a lot of supplements and the damage they do to your liver. Best advice for people into alternative treatment find Anthony William the medical medium and learn what foods you can use to heal your issues. For instance, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, so rather than taking medication which has other side effects, I followed his advice and started pulping celery every morning, not juicing but having it pulped in my magic bullet. I also eat mostly organic fruit and veg and exercise. Not only is my blood pressure back to normal but I have sorted other issues without taking any medication or supplements. Its marketing that influences how we manage our health and this article is part of that process.

    • 0
      0

      Rae,
      A good mineral supplement – in my opinion – is vital as a shortage of bio-available minerals will result in degenerative diseases die to the fact that they are ESSENTIAL in the “Cell replication processes”. This allows for faulty “Cell Manufacture) of mutations!!

      CRUSHED UP ROCK IS JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

  6. 0
    0

    K2 synthetic Cannabis? Never heard if it.
    One thing I was having issues with for ages, and it seems to sorted itself out [touch wood] since my recent Gall Bladder operation. Is Histamine intolerance. If my Histamine levels rose so did my blood pressure. I was taking anti histamine and not eating fermented foods for years. Must admit as it is only 3 weeks since the Gall Bladder was removed I have yet to have the courage to eat fermented foods. But other foods I was sensitive too seem to now be digested without the Gall Bladder. But as it is early days I am going to take this easy. LOL

  7. 0
    0

    Not all supplements are equal. There are many that have way too low amounts of the vitamin/mineral you are trying to have. You need a good quality and check the ingredients and amount. Do a lot of research. The best medicine is plants, a good variety, fresh from your own organic garden preferably, even a few greens or herbs in pots will enhance your nutrient levels. Supplements are big business and even the pharmaceutical companies are jumping on this band wagon. Use a reputable brand that has high amounts. I think the only one’s you have to be careful of is Vitamin A and K if on medicines, check that out first.

    • 0
      0

      musicveg,
      Add D & E to the above . Vits D,A, E & K are the “Fat Soluble” ones and cann be in Over Supply.
      The others are just “Flushed down the toilet” when in oversupply.

  8. 0
    0

    Musicveg hi. Yes I have. Some things in it are fine, some not! I have been seeing a dietician for a couple of months. I also have Urticaria…..allergy specialist said to me, ‘you know that hives and welts also can be internal!’ No I did not, but when I went off fermented foods, the IBS stopped. I think it must have had something to do with the Gall Bladder stone I had, surgeon said that the Gall Bladder would have stopped working ages ago, which probably was the time I started with IBS.

    • 0
      0

      Ann,

      I suggest tests for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver, Fatty Pancreas & also check for kidneys.
      As these organs all have (When healthy) a capacity far in excess of that required (Many people live happy lives on one kidney only) blood tests MAY not reveal the whole story. Ultrasonic tests will reveal all!
      Suggest that MRI to test for these (Fatty) items be avoided if at all possible as the Chemical injected is “Far from Friendly to your Kidneys. In fact this substance can be quite harmful.
      I had my “Gangrenous Gall Bladder removed some 4 years ago now and am still working to reverse the above conditions via a healthy organic (mainly Home grown) diet & “Targeted Supplements”.
      I would also request a Hormone balance check (by somebody who understands) and – if awry – would suggest “Wild yam Cream” (ordered on-line) rather than the “General Solution” of artificial hormones (or even bio-identicals).
      Hope that may help!

    • 0
      0

      That is interesting, I too suffered from IBS but am really well now, I cannot tolerate too much fermented, so all the push for to use fermented is not always right for everyone. Good luck.

    • 0
      0

      musicveg,
      We’re all “Variations on the Main Design”.
      What works for one MAY not work for others.

  9. 0
    0

    The only one I find useful is VIt B complex as the mozzies and other bugs don’t like me and it’s better that chemicals on one’s skin.

  10. 0
    0

    I hear that bowlers sware by using WD40 on their joints.

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