On the 12th of August 2018, SBS aired its informed documentary Vitamania: Hosted by Dr Derek Muller. The documentary – made for SBS by Melbourne’s Genepool Productions –investigates the science of vitamins and the history of the industry.
The documentary reviews the benefits and dangers of vitamin consumption around the world. While Muller provides a reasonably balanced review of the vitamin industry, the documentary appears to wrongly conflate the regulatory framework of Australia with other less stringently regulated countries.
Vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements are labelled as Complementary Medicines in Australia and are heavily regulated by the Australian regulatory body, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). As such, Australian medicinal products including complementary medicine are subject to high manufacturing, labelling and advertising standards and industry regulation is considered some of the best in the world. Any suggestion otherwise undermines community trust in the industry and government, particularly that of those who rely on complementary medicines to enhance their health and well-being.
In other markets, vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements are less regulated and undergo less rigorous testing and manufacturing standard requirements.
Muller’s documentary also states that in Australia “finished products are not required to be tested for safety or efficacy either”. However, Muller does not appear to expound in the documentary that for a complementary medicine to be listed with the Australian TGA, amongst other things, it must still comply with all legislative requirements in relation to quality, safety and efficacy.
In response to the documentary release, the TGA released the following:
“We assess lower risk medicines (vitamins, minerals, supplements) for safety and quality only. However, the commercial sponsor of the medicine is required to hold evidence that their product works, and they must provide this evidence to the TGA if we conduct a formal compliance review of the product. The TGA’s approach reduces the cost of approving low-risk medicines. If we reviewed all low-risk products for efficacy before they were permitted on the market, the additional costs would be passed on to consumers.”
Similarly, the Complementary Medicines Association (CMA), an industry body in Australia, also released a statement. CEO, Carl Gibson stated:
“As a responsible industry we advocate for a good nutritious diet and exercise, and supplements for when a healthy diet isn’t enough. The documentary shows the vital role our products make to supplement life’s journey. Consumers should also make sure they read the label when selecting products and seek the advice of a healthcare practitioner. Most importantly, as the documentary portrayed, only take the appropriate dosage and seek medical assistance if any case of any side effects.”
Author: Matthew Miskell
Image Credit: SBS Entertainment