A reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald has once again taken a swipe at complementary medicines (https://www.smh.com.au/national/hundreds-harmed-by-glucosamine-as-doctors-warn-stop-taking-it-20200129-p53vq1.html) this time against one of the most popular supplements in Australia.
The article says that "People who take one of Australia's most popular health supplements for osteoarthritis have been urged to stop taking the pills, with strong new evidence showing it doesn't help symptoms and one study revealing hundreds of people have been harmed by it."
The Mayo Clinic
The world-renowned Mayo Clinic in the USA, states: "Glucosamine sulfate might provide pain relief for people with osteoarthritis. The supplement appears to be safe and might be a helpful option for people who can't take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). While study results are mixed, glucosamine sulfate might be worth a try."[i]
There is a large body of evidence that supports glucosamine's role in the treatment of mild osteoarthritis.
Currently, Arthritis Australia says: "Recent studies have shown that the combination of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin may be effective in slowing the breakdown of cartilage in the early stages of knee OA. Research has also shown that the combination may help in reducing moderate to severe knee pain from OA."[ii]
From shellfish to vegan forms
The article says that "The supplement is often made from shellfish and can cause serious allergic reactions." This is true for people who are allergic to shellfish. In Australia, labels state the source of glucosamine, and there are warnings regarding allergic reactions for those allergic to shellfish.
Furthermore, the Australian complementary medicines industry is moving more and more towards vegan forms of glucosamine. Thus, the potential for allergy is not a concern for those with shellfish allergy if they choose a vegan derived form.
Numerous governmental requirements
There are numerous Government requirements for product warning statements generally, and allergen warning statements specifically. This includes substances sourced from/used in the manufacture of/or a known component of fish/crustacea/molluscs/shellfish/seafood/and many other allergens, by both the Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration for medicines, and by Foods Standard Australia and New Zealand for foods.
Public health is uppermost
The Australian Government engages with the industry, medical practitioners and consumers regarding the public health approaches to allergies and the regulatory approach to allergens within products. We at Complementary Medicines Australia regularly respond to the Government on regulatory issues and assist industry members regarding Government requirements.
Glucosamine, like other active ingredients, can interact with prescribed medications, , which is why we recommend the advice of a healthcare practitioner before taking such supplements. The article says that side effects are rare – this is true and can be observed by searching the Therapeutic Goods Administration adverse-event notification database.
Look at the label
The article quotes" The Age and the Herald found several glucosamine products for sale that contained only a note’ they were "derived from seafood" in small print on the back of the bottle."
In this context it needs to be understand the full range of regulatory requirements required on medicine labels, which include minimum letter height on label statements.
Supplements are covered by a wide range of laws governing product and allergen warning statements. And, the regulator, the TGA is constantly updating guidelines to ensure Australia’s booming complementary health industry continues to enjoy its status as the most highly regulated in the world. No wonder discerning consumers around the world are choosing Australian complementary medicines.
A raft of requirements
A variety of requirements both directly and indirectly about the required declaration of allergens included in the Australian Government legislation, including:
- Labelling standards for medicines (multiple currently in effect).
- The Food Standards Code (for food products).
- Certain Advertising standards.
- The Therapeutic Goods Act and specific Therapeutic Goods Regulations.
- Certain Therapeutic Goods legislative instruments (multiple in effect).
Lastly, CMA reiterates that the industry and the regulator work closely to ensure products meet the highest standards for efficacy and safety.
CMA has and will continue to work closely with the government and industry to ensure high quality research to ensure the safety and efficacy of complementary medicines made in Australia.
If consumers are concerned about the source of ingredients in a particular medicine they can contact the sponsor of the medicine for more information.
In fact, today (12 February 2020) Speaking at CMA healthy breakfast: at Parliament House the Honourable Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health said: “Australia has the best regulated Complementary medicines sector in the world.”