Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I'm crossing my eyes to look at a plastic bottle of Bio-organics Bilberry and Lutein Ultravision Formula. The closer I bring the label with the tiny number printed above a shiny holographic-like border to my eyes, the less I can make out. I'm hoping it's the number that could identify it as being manufactured by Pan Pharmaceuticals and perhaps one of over 219 complementary medicines and supplements recalled by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). I've removed the 'Amcal Busselton' price tag that concealed another, much easier to read, number and part of another number that I'm also able to read without crossing my eyes.

Quite late in an interiew by Tony Jones with Dr John McEwen, principal medical adviser for the TGA (transcript) it was mentioned that people could identify recalled supplements by matching a number on the product label with the numbers given on the PAN Pharmaceuticals Limited Manufactured Products for Immediate Recall list, as provided by the TGA. Generic names on the list meant that users of suppelements couldn't check for the recall of their brand name supplements, or so it was reported. Millions of Australians unable to match a five number sequence to find out if they should ditch their Vitamin C tablets or skip the garlic tablet and head out for some bruschetta.

My bilberry and lutein is not for recall (although I think it's time to ditch them anyway) and neither are Mum's ginkgo biloba tablets. I like that I can just (vision hassles aside) check the label of these products and find out if they need to be recalled and that when more is known, other information on the labels will help people to easily find out if their bottle of pills needs to be thrown out.

I noticed that the label of my Bilberry and Lutein supplement gives an outdated url for Bullivants Natural Health Products, which now asks that you visit Mayne, a company providing health care in Australia. To find information on Bio-organics, I checked the Mayne A to Z site index, then a link to Vitamins, Minerals and Health Supplements and then to an outside link to Bio-organics.

What does all this mean? Probably that I should be eating more spinach and buying a fresher supply of lutein, and maybe that I should spend less time at my computer. And that a lot of money is made selling complementary medicines that most people can safely discontinue using at a moment's notice. And that according to Four Corners tonight ('Hazards of the happy pill'), even more money is made selling mainstream medicines that not everyone can use or discontinue using without the possibility of some disturbing side effects.

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