Quackbuster: Singapore 4
The passage of the Health Products Bill is reported in Today today (emphasis mine).
Health Products Bill passed, with room to grow
AS PARLIAMENT yesterday passed the Health Products Bill, some members on the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health called for health supplements and foodstuff to come under the new law, which will initially govern medical devices such as stents and pacemakers.
Madam Halimah Yacob, who heads the GPC for health, questioned the exclusion of food products from the Bill — a view echoed by Dr Fatimah Lateef, MP for Marine Parade GRC. Dr Fatimah noted that ginseng drinks, for example, claimed "to lower blood pressure", while Mdm Halimah said milk formulas also made health claims.
Responding, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the Sale of Food Act, administered by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), already included restrictions and requirements on food product claims.
He added that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) works with the AVA on products that fall into the grey area between medicines and food.
There were also calls from some GPC members to hasten the regulation of health supplements. Mr Sam Tan, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, suggested more public education campaigns for consumers.
Mr Khaw said a decision on whether health supplements would be included under the Act has not been made.
Acknowledging their regulation to be a complex one, he said: "We should carefully discuss the pros and cons and, in particular, study the experience in other countries. It is not a straightforward subject."
Dr Lam Pin Min, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, and Dr Fatimah asked for greater emphasis on post-market surveillance, for robust regulation.
Yet, over-regulation was also a concern, said Mdm Halimah, as prohibitive fees and complex registration processes would act as a disincentive for small businesses and start-up initiatives.
Agreeing, Mr Khaw gave the assurance that a balance would be struck between consumer protection and business viability.
Beyond these concerns, GPC members welcomed the legislation, calling it timely and necessary.
The new Bill aims to consolidate, over time, all four separate pieces of legislation that currently govern medicines in Singapore — namely the Medicines Act, the Poisons Act, the Sale of Drugs Act and the Medicines (Advertisement and Sale) Act — under one framework.
The HSA is seeking public feedback on the Health Products Bill (Medical Devices) until April 3. Email email@example.com with your comments.
Does ginseng lower blood pressure? Well, it has been found to lower blood pressure in several studies angry doc looked up, but not in any meaningful manner on the long-term, according to the findings from this study. It's a small study with a high drop-out rate, and so by no means 'landmark' or conclusive, but I thought it was a well-designed study with attention to blinding. Had the study been larger and had the results shown a significant improvement in blood pressure in the subjects taking ginseng, it would certainly make the medical profession sit up and pay attention. But as it is, even some segments of the alternative and complementary medicine community don't think ginseng will help reduce your risk of getting a stroke or heart attack.
Perhaps this is the kind of study proponents of traditional medicine should be conducting instead of arguing that traditional medicine should be exempt from scientific studies and free to make unproven claims of health benefits.
In the mean time, angry doc finds few allies in his battle against health supplements of unproven efficacy even amongst his blogging-friends.