Monday 12 September 2005

When Is A Drug Not A Drug?

These days I see many infomercials and ads on television selling “miracle” pills that promise to cure a wide variety of ailments. Among the common health miracles made by these advertisements are promises such as weight loss, hair growth, and pain relief. These pills are sold as nutritional or dietary supplements in order to avoid the strict regulations existed in many countries that forbid false health claims and advertisements of pharmaceutics to the public. While government agencies had been successful in prosecuting many unscrupulous vendors and removing these offended products, the legal process was often slow and could not protect the public from the next “false” drug or “miracle” cure. Moreover, special interest groups in many countries had successfully lobbied their governments against the need for these supplements to provide the same level of scientific proofs to support their health claims as traditional pharmaceutics.

As a health professional myself, I see little difference between traditional drugs and so-called supplements. Any substance that is given outside of its natural form or concentration or extracted for the purpose of consumption for a health problem is a pharmaceutic, regardless of the origin and nature of the active ingredient. Even water can be toxic to the body in non-physiologic amount. In other words, there should only be one dividing line for all health products—ones that work and ones that do not work. Any other divide serves little to protect the public’s health.

By Philip Jong • At 11:22 AM • Under Column • Under Health • Under Work • Under World
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