by Pippa Starr
24 December 2020
What products are risky?
How do you know? Who should we trust?
In 2020 it's a question that should have clear answers yet the line between risk and harm seems to become even more clouded in a haze of government decisions that rely on and fund a bureaucracy that could be failing the population, and in a lot of cases it is.
While we should have a society that is liberal and maintain freedoms, we should also have a government that we can rely on to help combine the best information that can help us all to live safer, healthier and happier lives right?
We should have leadership that we can trust to represent our core values of our society and protect us from risk, right?
How can that happen if a government of the day throws money at populist opinions and organisations that support those, rather than balance those opinions with real independent science, hence really diverting risk from the population?
No doubts we have the best possible democratic system available that our government works within the parameters of, but is it enough?
There is also another balancing act when a government appoints an independent body to assist to help regulate products in a risk proportionate manor.
How much power should such a body have? Who keeps such a body accountable?
The two main bodies that the Australian government rely on to help keep Australians from harm is the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commision) and TGA (Theraputic good administration). The ACCC are there to help keep us from risky consumables and the TGA are the body that attempt to keep us safe from products that claim they can help improve our health. eg. drugs, vitamin products ect.
Let's look at an example from both bodies.
Nexium is a TGA regulated product, it has been well reported to increase death from Cardio vascular disease yet recently had the prescription access cancelled and is now available in abundance at chemists. It has some god awful side effects including
diarrhea, nausea, and flatulence.
dry mouth or an unusual taste in the mouth.
vulnerable to death from cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and upper gastrointestinal cancer, according to research published in The BMJ.
Cigarettes are an ACCC regulated product that kill 2/3 long term users and have a well known long list of deadly harms yet are regulated by a government appointed body that is meant to keep us safe.
The next question is, then how the hell can Australians trust our government bodies that are meant to keep us safe when they let deadly products loose in our marketplace?
Is it past time to think again about who and how risk is measured when it comes to governing what products are open sesame on our population?
The TGA were given the job by our government to regulate eCigarettes. There are some small harms with Ecigarettes, around 1/20th of the harms of traditional, combustible cigarettes.
They have been on the market and used for 17 years with over 57 million people using them to reduce and/or quit smoking with some outstanding success.
Essentially they are a consumer product alternative to traditional tobacco products.
So why, in our government's wisdom were they handed to the TGA to regulate?
TGA only regulate products that are health products that apply to be able to be sold as such.
For example if a new motorbike helmet accessory comes out to try and attempt to reduce road fatalities, it is regulated by the ACCC. If the company who produces it claims it's safer, they must comply with the guidelines of the ACCC.
So why then are Ecigarettes regulated by the ACCC?
That's a question that has many baffled!
They say it's because they use nicotine, although in a much safer form than when laced with 7000 chemicals in a cigarette. Yet nicotine is obviously in cigarettes and regulated by the ACCC. There seems to be very little rhyme or reasoning to why the TGA are applying regulations to eCigarettes if our independent government funded bodies are actually defined for what they are meant to regulate.
Maybe I am missing something? As a person of the general population who doesn't profess to be an expert on divided government policy, rather I am simply a person of logic, and this simply makes no sense. There seems to be a clear lack of consistency of how risky products are regulated in Australia.
I know I am not on my own with this thinking.
In this era where people are not loyal voters and often single issue voters, this whole confusion on one issue could easily help determine an election result.
Is it past time that Australians demand that our employees aka- Australian government, provide better, clearer and safer paths for managing risky products with risk proportionate strategies?
To do otherwise the government could be voted out, right?
Even worse, if the current structure continues, it appears more Australians will suffer more harms on the back of policies that are designed to push an agenda, rather than offer the best health benefits that the best science can bring to all.
Maybe it's past time to bin both the TGA & ACCC and start again with a new body that really does support risk proportionate outcomes for all Australians?
What do you think?