ABC Catalyst Complaint – Advertisements and claims relating to therapeutic goods


GENRE:  Online Complaint form

TITLE: ABC Catalyst Complaint – Advertisements and claims relating  to therapeutic goods

TO:  Complaints Resolution Panel

AUTHOR:  Monica M, Qld, Australia

STATUS:  Acknowledged

DATE WRITTEN:  9/8/13

UPDATES:  Please post all updates and comments in the LEAVE A REPLY section below.

EXTERNAL LINKS: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3821248.htm


The following is a complaint regarding the ABC TV Catalyst program televised at 8pm on 8th August 2013 concerning water fluoridation.

This program was pre-recorded and therefore the producers had every opportunity to make sure it was presented correctly. I had previously contacted both the ABC Board, the Catalyst program as well as ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs, of the legislation regarding therapeutic claims.

The ABC appear to have intentionally made therapeutic claims and misled the public in making exaggerated claims about water fluoridation substances without first checking the content for legality under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 and Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code 2007. They were advised beforehand before the show aired.

FIRSTLY, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has previously confirmed to me that therapeutic claims are not permitted for substances used for the purification or treatment of drinking water as Excluded Goods under Section 5 Item 10 of The Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) Order No. 1 of 2011.

The therapeutic claims in the ABC TV Catalyst program fall directly within the Act as follows:

Therapeutic use is defined in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 as meaning use
in or in connection with:
(a) preventing, diagnosing, curing or alleviating a disease, ailment, defect or injury in persons or animals; or
(b) influencing, inhibiting or modifying a physiological process in persons or animals

The transcript evidence of therapeutic claims made in the Catalyst program:-

Dr Michael Foley (Dentist)
Everybody who has a tooth in their head will benefit from water fluoridation.
(Therapeutic claim for an unlisted product, and not excluded goods by the definition above)

Dr Denis Ingham (Dentist)
It is very effective, and has been very effective in reducing tooth decay.
(Therapeutic claim cannot be made for this type of excluded good)

NARRATION
The evidence that fluoride improves dental health extends to adults too.
(Therapeutic claim)

NARRATION
So it’s clear that water fluoridation works. But, how exactly? Teeth are the hardest substance in the body, primarily made up of a mineral called ‘hydroxylapatite’. Fluoride, either in water or toothpaste, gets absorbed into the tooth enamel and forms a new, stronger mineral called ‘fluorapatite’.
(Defining of therapeutic use)
Dr Michael Foley (Dentist)
And that stronger mineral is then more resistant to the acid that causes tooth decay. Remember Mrs Marsh used to talk about, ‘It gets in like liquid gets into this chalk’?
(Defining therapeutic use)
Mrs Marsh (old advertisement)
It gets right into teeth, like this liquid gets into chalk.
Boy
To make teeth really tough.
(Defining therapeutic use)
Dr Michael Foley (Dentist)
Well, she was right. It strengthens the enamel, makes it much, much more resistant to acid. With fluoridated water, of course, you get both – you get the systemic benefit for little kiddies, and you get the much greater topical effect. You’re always getting a little bit of a top-up. It’s like a little fluoride treatment lots and lots of times during the day to make your teeth stronger.
(Defining therapeutic use)

SECONDLY, The program makes ‘oultandish statements’ about water fluoridation that are not supported by any scientific data of water fluoridation substances for human ingestion and I believe they are in breach of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code 2007 (TGAC) since they make a therapeutic claim, as noted above. Breaches of the TGAC are noted here:-

Ruben Meerman (ABC Journalist)
This innocuous-looking glass of water has been hailed as one of the greatest health
initiatives of the 20th century.
Breach of TGAC Section 4.( 2) (a)

Dr Michael Foley (Dentist)
Everybody who has a tooth in their head will benefit from water fluoridation.
Breach of TGAC Section 4.( 2) (a), 4.(2) (g) and 4.(2) (h), Section 4.(6).

Dr Denis Ingham (Dentist)
It is very effective, and has been very effective in reducing tooth decay.
Breach of TGAC Section 4.(2) (a), Section 4.(6).

Mrs Marsh (old advertisement)
It gets right into teeth, like this liquid gets into chalk.

Boy
To make teeth really tough.
Breach of TGAC Section 4.(2) (a), 4.(2) (c)

Journalist
These apples are being attacked by some of the best teeth in Australia.
Breach of TGAC Section 4.(2) (a), 4.(2) (c)

Dr Denis Ingham (Dentist)
That’s a lot. Maybe in a fluoridated area, if you had fluoride in the water supply, your curious (caries) experience would have been lower Ruben Meerman (ABC Journalist) I might have been better off, you think, if I’d been in Townsville, perhaps?

Dr Denis Ingham (Dentist)
Uh… yes, for sure.
Breach of TGAC Secton 4.(2) (c)

Dr Michael Foley (Dentist)
On average, there was about 45% less decay in the Townsville children than what there was in the Brisbane children. There was a massive difference. If somebody could reduce heart disease or cancer or something like that by 45%, they’d get a Nobel Prize for it.
Breach of TGAC Secton 4.(2) (c), 4.(2) (g)

Professor Michael Moore (Toxicologist)
The Harvard study was an excellent one, trying to see whether there was any relationship between the presence of fluoride in bone next to an osteosarcoma and the development of the cancer, and they could find no association whatsoever. It was a very, very thorough review, large number of subjects, a highly credible bit of work.
Breach of TGAC Section 4.(4) It had only 20 control subjects under age 30. For this key age group, Douglass admitted this serious limitation.
(ref: http://www.fluoridealert.org/studies/cancer05/).

ABC was informed by the President of Queenslanders for Safe Water, Air & Food Inc. prior to the program going to air, pointing out the balanced scientific data and urging the ABC to check their facts, figures and claims before going to air. They did not air the opposing viewpoint.

NARRATION
In 2007, Australia’s top research body, the National Health and Medical Research Council, released a major report on water fluoridation.

Professor Michael Moore
They reviewed 5,500 papers, and, on the basis of the papers of the highest quality, concluded that there was no association between fluoridation and illness. When you’re looking at it from the position of a research scientist, it’s very hard to understand the objections that people place in the presence of fluoride in water supplies.

There are so many studies saying that it’s safe when it’s used properly.

Breach of TGAC Section 4.(4) The NHMRC Review included only 113 papers (most of those discounted were not relevant to the Review). The first paragraph is misleading. ABC was informed by the President of Queenslanders for Safe Water, Air & Food Inc. prior to the program going to air, pointing out the balanced scientific data and urging the ABC to check their facts, figures and claims before going to air. They did not air the opposing viewpoint.

NARRATION
So it’s clear that water fluoridation works.
Breach of TGAC Secton 4.(2) (g), 4. (2) (i)

The above is a list of breaches I consider to be significant, however I am sure there are other breaches to the TGAC that I have not fully covered.

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2 comments on “ABC Catalyst Complaint – Advertisements and claims relating to therapeutic goods

  1. Today (19/8/13) I received a reply from the Complaints Resolution Panel who have withdrawn my complaint on the grounds that it was “trivial, vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance” under 42ZCAF(a) of the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990. They obviously did not read the Excluded Goods Order which supported the TGA’s intention to regulate any substance added to drinking water that made a therapeutic claim. I have requested a review of their decision and any further recourse open to me.

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