Having bitched quite recently about public health tax dollars being spent on researching complimentary medicines (reminder: "not mainstream medicine"="not effective". If it worked, it would be mainstream), I have to give credit where credit is due, to Queensland Health, who have been suing people who make "misleading health claims" (story couretsy of Courier Mail). Go and read it, it's quite a good article, considering the source.
There are many different factors for discussion in here, including the plausibility of ingested antioxidants having a direct effect upon cancer cells, the quality of the research quoted, comparisons between Dr Red and, say, a couple of oranges a day, how "the more concentrated the dose" relates to how you drink it (are we talking a whole bottle reduced down to a syrine?) and the language debate between "curative", "positive health outcomes" and "good for you". Plus, what's special about Dr Red if mega-dose vitamin C therapy has demonstrated basically no positive effect?
My brief opinion on the issue is that if Dr Red are able to demonstrate consistent benefits for cancer, they won't need to advertise, and will be supplying it in bulk to any hospital with an oncology ward. But they're not, and they are advertising, and it's getting them in trouble.
But perhaps the most interesting part of this article is the reason they're getting in trouble:
It is not an offence for details of human health trials to be made public in Queensland but it is illegal for those funding trials to publicise information.
In other words, if you have a conflict of interest that serious, shut up. Which is no guarantee of better quality reporting, and not much protection for the public, but is a positive step in the right direction.
And then we have the kicker, a comment on new legislation:
Ironically, legislation covering food health claims currently being considered by Parliament would, if enacted, allow companies to promote claims provided they could be substantiated.
Which is really the major argument, isn't it? "Provided they could be substantiated". Isn't this the whole point behind the nebulous, generally vague concept of "Proof in advertising"? Admittedly, all this is likely to do is give us a whole new nightmare of interpreting advertising claims to go with "Studies have shown", "part of", "may help", and "in combination with a balanced diet and regular exercise" (anyone remember the McDonalds versus health activists trial? Where a doctor got on the witness stand and said "You could eat a roll of sellotape as part of a balanced diet"?), but I'm all for putting a burden of proof into any legislation to do with health claims or in fact anything else.
I'm seriously hoping that if that legislation is passed, vitamins and supplements manufacturers start getting hit with "show us the proof" lawsuits as well.
Link to Courier Mail story
Link to my last rant on CAM