Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Two hundred and nineteen complementary medicine products are being recalled by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, after problems discovered at Pan Pharmaceuticals Limited. More products manufactured by this company could be involved. Until more information is available, the TGA is asking the public not to use any commercially produced supplements or herbs, regardless of whether they appear on the TGA's list of those recalled or not.

My Bio-organics Bilberry and Lutein has been (voluntarily) recalled by Mayne... I can't remember when I bought it and the expiry date has been rubbed off, so it was time to bin it anyway. The two products in the Nature's Own range that we have here haven't been recalled and neither has the Ginkgo Plus by Cenovis and the Sleep-Ezy tablets from Natural Nutrition. Or not that I noticed.

Consumer information is now available at all of the relevant Mayne group Web sites (that includes all of the product sites given above). All of the supplements we have at our place have a connection with Mayne. I can see how compiling this list of products and changing so many different Web sites could take half the day or more.

While there's a variety of brands in the health food shop or chemist, there are fewer companies behind them - although reading the TGA's list of Sponsors that do NOT use Pan Pharmaceuticals Limited as a manufacturer for any of their products shows there to be a lot of organisations selling alternative treatments.

The only other alternative medicine brand name I remember buying is Blackmores. According to their site, none of their products are manufactured by Pan Pharmaceuticals. And, even better, they are promoting a new product with lutein and selenium called Lutein-Vision. The amount of lutein in each capsule is the same as in the Bilberry and Lutein capsules I have now. No claims to help RP of course but they do claim it to offer protection to the macula. So the recalls have perhaps not adversely affected everyone in the business of alternative medicine.

The Age Online reported today that Mayne could lose between $15 and $20 million due to the recall (''Recall to cost Mayne group $20 million' 29/04/03). A third of their nutraceuticals are manufactured by PAN Pharmaceuticals.

Mayne now have information available at their site, however this morning there was still no mention of the recall. Either my browser wouldn't load the latest media releases at Mayne earlier today or they just weren't there. What I did see was Mayne's share price - up in the top right of their main page. That lead me to the Australian Stock Exchange - ASX site, where I found a company announcement from Mayne - 'Response to Pan Pharmaceuticals Ltd situation.' The share price does not appear to be greatly affected after this announcement. ASX code: MAY.

Nature's Own was still inviting people to 'stock up on Nature's Own winter savings' and the other related sites I've mentioned hadn't changed by lunch time either. The Natural Nutrition site enthused that 'Germany puts on a happy face with Hypericum'.

According to this small item, 66 million prescriptions are written in Germany for hypericum (St John's Wort) each year. Hypericum is a herbal treatment for mild to moderate depression that is available without prescription in Australia. The list of Pan Pharmaceuticals Limited manufactured products for immediate recall (listed by AUST R/L number) includes a St Johns Wort product. I wonder how problematic it might be for some people using St John's Wort to stop using it.

The Natural Nutrition site does/did offer information about other ways of naturally treating conditions that either tie in with their products or should be used in conjunction with their products - such as not drinking caffeine of an afternoon if you have trouble sleeping or ensuring adequate exercise if you are stressed.

I can't find any mention of the recall on Pan Pharmaceuticals web site - their last announcement was 'Half-year results to December 2002 - Executive report (26-Feb-2003).' The ASX provides more information about the company, including relevant announcements from other companies. ASX code: PPH.

Checking the containers of supplements today, I did find that one product didn't appear to have an AUST R/L number - Nature's Own MSM - Nutrition for Joint Health, perhaps because it is in a powder form? Or perhaps because it does have a number and I can't find it. Must buy more spinach.

From all this I'm reminded that alternative does not equal natural and that alternative does not mean independent of mainstream business. And that if I want to know more about a company's situation, perhaps I should look for information where the shareholders look, rather than where consumers might expect to find it. And that it pays to shop around!

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