ASMI comment on Cancer Council position statement on complementary and alternative therapies

06 March 2013

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The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) welcomes the Cancer Council's newly released position statement on complementary and alternative therapies and fully supports the recommendation for patients with cancer to discuss the use of these medicines and therapies with a their healthcare practitioner. [1]

However, ASMI does not agree with the implication that complementary medicines in general may cause harmful side effects and that health claims for many complementary medicines are unproven.

According to ASMI Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Director, Steven Scarff:

"Complementary medicines play a central part in Australia's healthcare system, particularly in chronic conditions, minor ailments and preventative health.

"As the Cancer Council's position statement points out, relatively few cancer patients and survivors use complementary and alternative medicines to directly treat cancer or prevent it from returning. In addition, it is illegal for complementary medicines to carry claims about treating cancer.

"People who use unsafe or ineffective complementary medicines, and ones that carry outrageous health claims, have either purchased them online or bought them overseas where the safety and quality can not be guaranteed.

"Australia has one of the highest levels of control on quality and safety when it comes to complementary medicines. In Australia, all complementary medicines must only be produced by TGA-approved manufacturers, and only from ingredients approved as low-risk by the TGA."

ASMI believes any media coverage suggesting that complementary medicines approved for use in Australia are unsafe, carry unproven health claims or do not comply with strict quality controls is inaccurate.

1. Cancer Council Australia. Position statement: complementary and alternative therapies. 6 March 2013.