Swallowing It? ABC Four Corners' Baseless Hatchet Job

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Many of you may have seen ABC's Four Corners segment titled "Swallowing It", a one-sided and poorly researched segment rife with bias and factual inaccuracies.  We'd like to take a moment to look at these claims and refute them based on the actual facts.

The Four Corners episode largely focused on a supposed lack of evidence and efficacy of natural medicines and apparent poor TGA compliance from manufacturers of natural medicines in an apparent attempt to question the safety and regulation of the industry.  This was also followed by a web article on the Four Corners website.

Complementary medicines are extensively researched, highly regulated and play a vital role in the overall management of Australians’ health. Consumers trust Australian products and the numbers speak for themselves:

  • 90% of GPs have recommended at least one complementary medicine in the last 12 months.
  • 40% of those who take complementary medicines do so for chronic conditions

The efficacy of complementary medicines has been evaluated by many significant, independent, local and international research studies over many years. In fact, Omega-3 is the most studied nutrient in history, researched more than most pharmaceutical drugs.

Despite the overwhelming positive research on Omega-3, Four Corner's web article referred to a 2015 review that concluded fish oil supplementation was not effective to reduce cardio-vascular disease risk. 

What you are not told is that these findings were based off low dose supplementation of less than 1 g/day. However, the exact same study (which wasn't reported) found that in fact higher doses of 3-4 grams/day had benefit in a number of cardiovascular-related pathologies including the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia and hypertension.

Here's the problem with Four Corner's reporting.  The reporters that compiled the segment chose to focus on single negative reports, even when there is overwhelming supporting evidence compiled from multiple studies and intensive research.  It's a bit like having a group of people outside and one points to the sky and says it's green with everyone else saying it's blue.  You and I would say the sky is clearly blue given the evidence, but Four Corners would still argue it was green because one person said so.

The Four Corners episode also tried to question the supposed poor compliance to TGA requirements for manufacturing of supplements and how this may pose a safety risk to the consumer.

tgaapprovedAustralia has some of the highest and most vigilantly monitored standards for supplements in the world.  Supplements are regulated as medicines.  You cannot make a claim about a supplement without TGA approval.  With supplements,  adverse events are recorded and monitored by the TGA in the same way prescription medicines are and company manufacturing facilities are required to meet strict audit standards which are the same as pharmaceutical standards.

When there are problems relating to the safety and efficacy of supplements in Australia, it typically involves products or ingredients that are not approved by the TGA and are being imported directly from overseas by either retailers or consumers.  This problem also applies to people obtaining pharmaceuticals from overseas, and not a unique problem of complimentary medicine.

In closing, the Four Corners episode and corresponding web article chose to focus on a narrow, and selected range of research and information which resulted in a biased perspective of the industry. We have to question the motivation behind such a hatchet job, especially when "evidence" presented is either incomplete, inaccurate or just an outright lie.

All we have left to say in response to Four Corner's segment is that we at GO VITA Stanthorpe are here to provide you with the support and products to allow you to enjoy a healthier and happy life, backed by industry recognised research and evidence.

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  •  Rachael W

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