Several alternative medicines which have been banned in other countries have easily found their way into the South African market, the Democratic Alliance said on Thursday.
Briefing the media in Cape Town, DA Spokesman on Health, Mike Waters, said the South African government was doing nothing to stop these dangerous products from being sold to people.
"Many of these products simply do not work or are actually dangerous, and several have been banned or restricted in other countries... yet they continue to be sold freely in South Africa, with no intervention by the authorities," he said.
Despite health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang having proposed a system through which the sale of alternative medicines would be regulated, Waters said the system was still yet to be implemented.
Refuses to follow through
"It is puzzling, therefore, that the Minister of Health three years ago initiated a system for the regulation of alternative medicines, but refuses to follow through with implementing it.
"It is also puzzling that South Africa's medicines regulatory authority, the Medicines Control Council (MCC), refuses to use the mechanisms available to it to protect consumers," he said, adding that the regulatory vacuum has turned the alternative medicines market-place into a free-for-all.
Amongst others, Waters cited Glucoplex, a product which is being marketed in SA as a medicine for abnormal sugar metabolism and diabetes, as one of the products whose "dubious" claims were acted upon by United States authorities.
"In 2006 the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Drug Administration in the US, working with government agencies in Mexico and Canada, launched a drive to stop sales of products misrepresented as treatments for diabetes, including Sportron.
No action taken
"The MCC has taken no action against this product," he said.
Waters said there was a need for the MCC to be independent from the government if it were to become effective.
"To become more effective and properly independent, the MCC needs to be urgently lifted out of the public service and set up as an autonomous, self-funding institution along the lines of the South African Revenue Service, with clear specifications about lines of accountability and independence," he said.
Tshabalala-Msimang's office was not immediately available for comment.
However, responding to similar attacks by the DA on the MCC last month the health ministerial spokesman, Sibani Mngadi, had said it did not make sense for the DA to call for the restructuring of the council when they knew the process was already underway.
"It is disturbing that the Democratic Alliance has chosen to act in a politically opportunistic manner... regarding the Medicine Control Council (MCC).
"Unfortunately, the [DA's] statement seeks to undercut the initiative of the portfolio committee to engage with the MCC and draw some media credit to the [party]," he said, adding that a task team dealing with the restructuring of the council had already begun its work. – (Sapa)
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