Alternative medicine study ($5 million) launched by Australian government

Australia will invest $5 million to test alternative medicine, focusing particularly on herbal therapies.

Currently, Australians spend about $1 billion each year on complementary medicines, "including vitamins, homeopathic medicines and traditional Asian and indigenous medicines. But current regulations do not require manufacturers of many alternative medicines to prove they have any beneficial effect, only that they are safe." This is similar to U.S. regulation of herbal and other dietary supplements.

The $5 million will be allocated through the National Health and Medical Research Council for projects investigating the use and effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicines.

"About 50 per cent of Australians use at least one non-prescribed complementary medicine," as compared with slightly figures in the U.S.

"Complementary medicines must be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Those the TGA considers high risk - based on the toxicity of ingredients, dosage, potential side-effects and whether the medicine is intended to treat a serious disease - have to prove they are effective and back up their claims with research. Those considered low risk are tested only for their quality and safety. The federal government last year announced a major overhaul of the regulatory regime for the complementary medicines industry to restore consumer confidence. It was sparked by the mass recall of 1,600 complementary medicines and the eventual collapse of major supplier Pan Pharmaceuticals. At the time, the government said it would review homeopathic and herbal medicines, raw herbs and other ingredients used in the production of medicinal compounds, and crack down on claims made about alternative medicines. It planned to establish new guidelines to help verify claims and monitor them more stringently."

In the U.S., claims regarding dietary supplements are regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration. No disease claims can be made, although manufacturers can make, among other allowable kinds of claims, make claims relating to the way the dietary supplement affects the structure or function of the human body.

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Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers general corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law, with a unique focus on alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies.

Michael H. Cohen is also President of the the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine, also known as the Institute for Health, Ethics, Law, Policy & Society. The Institute serves as a reliable forum for investigation and recommendations regarding the legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues involved in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care.

The most recent book written by Michael H. Cohen on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy pertaining to complementary and alternative medicine and related fields is an interdisciplinary collection of essays entitled, Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion. This is the fourth book in a series, the first being Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998).