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Consumers must be protected from dangerous quackery

07 February 2017 - 09:28 By The Times Editorial

Jellyfish protein will help your memory, we are told, but clearly not your wallet if you are prepared to pay R3,460 for Prevagen, the product containing it. Prevagen is a snake-oil treatment which will do nothing for your memory.

Its manufacturers have been charged for false advertising in the US but the product is marketed in South Africa without consequence.

As our report yesterday showed, this jellyfish junk highlights how little has been done by the Medicines Control Council to regulate complementary and alternative medicine since new regulations were introduced in November 2013.

The regulations were meant to promote the "safety, quality and efficacy" of these substances.

In terms of the regulations, complementary, alternative medicines used in homeopathy, Ayurveda and other disciplines were included in a new category of regulated medicines. Those which had not been registered with the MCC had to carry appropriate labelling warning they were not intended as a cure.

Across the board, all alternative medicines had to be submitted to the MCC for assessment and registration, and any of these medicines which contained potentially dangerous substances had to be withdrawn from the market.

That was more than three years ago, so the admission by council registrar Joey Gouws that "no product has been registered" is astonishing and begs an explanation.

Proponents of these medicines might argue that consumers have the right to choose their own method of treatment even if that may not conform with the Western mainstream.

But consumers also have the right not to be conned and have their health endangered by dodgy and dangerous quackery.

That's what the MCC and the health department are supposed to be protecting us from. It's high time they started doing the job.