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Natural health products confiscated

Last updated 13:56 10/04/2008
BEN WATSON/North Shore Times
BIG LOSS: Peter Hardwick says Medsafe officers walked out of his store with nearly $10,000 of stock.

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Thousands of dollars worth of stock have been confiscated in checkups on North Shore natural health practices.

Medsafe, which regulates therapeutic products, has had compliance officers check natural health products and claims on the Shore.

Any medicines or products categorised as not complying with the 1981 Medicines Act have been confiscated.

A ban on advertising alternative medicines and claiming they have therapeutic benefits beyond what Medsafe deems accurate has been enforced.

Takapuna retailer Peter Hardwick had about $10,000 worth of stock seized from his store Nutrition Plus in September.

Shipments of stock he ordered from overseas were also searched and $2000 worth of products were confiscated.

Medsafe officers say the confiscated dietary supplements and amino acid products had ingredients that can only be sold in pharmacies.

Others contained more than the recommended daily dose of various substances.

"We’ve been selling these products for years and there’s never been any problems," says Mr Hardwick.

"My customers want these products and now I have to say to them: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t give them to you’. I think Medsafe has gone overboard."

A Medsafe spokesman says the organisation is simply cracking down on inaccurate and dangerous claims by natural health websites and ads.

Those include claims a honey-based tonic can cure cancer and a deep sea squid product can treat alzheimer’s disease.

"It’s to ensure people’s safety. These products aren’t tested – they could potentially be contaminated. It’s better to err on the side of caution."

The checks on health food and sports supplement stores such as Mr Hardwick’s are not part of the campaign, though they could be caught up in website crackdown, he says.

"If you’re a policeman and you go to someone’s house because of a burglary and you find drugs on the premises, you’re going to deal with that as well.

"It may just be due to the fact that the number of Medsafe enforcement staff has increased in recent years."

Many natural health practices have banded together under the banner Health Freedom to protest what they claim is a Medsafe "witch hunt".

The group claims the regulator is cracking down unjustifiably on their products and claims.

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One practitioner complains she was told to take down information on the health benefits of lavender.

Another says she was told to take down testimonials saying the food supplement Wahi Bush flax oil gave therapeutic benefits.

Health Freedom claims the crackdown is a response to the controversial Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill stalled after protests last year.

- North Shore Times

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