It comes as no surprise that the embattled Advertising Standards Authority management and board have gone to ground and are steadfastly refusing to answer some pretty searching questions. Either they are in state of denial or the answers are just far too embarrassing.
Major funders of the ASA are in revolt with the most vociferous coming from the print media industry.
The acting CEO of Avusa and prominent member of the Print Media SA Board, Mike Robertson, pulls no punches: "I believe the ASA has lost the plot. The budgets it has submitted to the PMSA in the past couple of years have asked for increases that are way in excess of inflation and are simply unsustainable. It has also not adapted to the consumer protection laws. What the industry needs is a body that can resolve disputes fairly, speedily and cheaply. The ASA is not that body."
The industry task team that is developing funding models for both the ASA and the SA Advertising Research Foundation is believed to be close to a solution for SAARF but I have been told that it is not even past first base on trying to solve the ASA funding issue.
But, funding is not the only problem the ASA faces.
It is rumoured that its president, Judge Mervyn King has resigned but no announcement has been forthcoming. If indeed he has resigned it would be a damning indictment on the ASA in spite of what the inevitable PR spin might suggest.
King has been very much a figurehead and has never really been involved in the operations of the ASA. If he has resigned it would not come as a surprise given that the ASA has been accused by some stakeholders of flouting King 3 corporate governance guidelines.
Just to add to the ASA's woes, a large pharmaceutical company has sued it with litigation documentation running into a couple of thousand pages.
As an indication of the desperation that reigns within the ASA today, when it was served with these papers, the ASA wrote to all of its members claiming that it was being sued by a company that had a history of "numerous consumer complaints."
However, the ASA's own records show that in fact there has been only one complaint in the past 15 years from an actual consumer, with all of the rest coming a small group of four health industry activists who by their own admission have never bought or used any of the company's products.
Very similar to the situation that occurred a few years ago when 75% of all the complaints to the ASA regarding the cellular telephone industry came from one individual.
A litany of accusations and charges
It is believed that the ASA is no longer the advertising industry's own self-regulatory body simply from the point of view that only a handful of advertising practitioners remain involved in what appears to be a non-executive capacity.
It would be safe to say that the ASA has to all intents and purposes, been hijacked.
The litany of accusations and charges against the ASA goes on.
For many years, for example, the ASA claimed that appendices to its Code were drafted by and administered on behalf of credible industry regulatory bodies such as the Medicines Control Council ("MCC").
As early as 2008, the ASA was informed by an industry expert that the MCC could not possibly have delegated authority to the ASA to administer a code on its behalf with regard to the regulation of advertising of medicines and products used to treat certain conditions.
In spite of this, the ASA was found to have continued to administer the appendices to their Code "on behalf of the MCC"
In early 2011, the industry sought clarity directly from the MCC in reference to their relationship with the ASA, and their supposed delegation of authority.
The MCC responded in a letter signed by the Registrar of Medicines, stating in no uncertain terms that it had no relationship with the ASA whatsoever and had delegated no functions to it in any shape or form.
The big question that still remains concerns the validity of all relevant ASA rulings during the period it claimed to be acting with the blessing of the MCC. The irony is that any company wishing now to contest these rulings will, according to ASA rules, have to pay roughly R70 000 upfront.
Right now there is growing sentiment within the ASA funding community that the organisation needs a radical overhaul, in terms of control at board level, professional skills for adjudication and most importantly the ASA's code needs urgent reassessment to not only bring it in line with the Consumer Protection Act, King 3 and the constitution of the country. In addition, it needs to put a stop to what seem to be bizarre interpretations of regulations. These interpretations are costing companies millions of rands in lost opportunities and legal fees, which inevitably end up being paid for by the very consumer the ASA is supposed to be protecting.
The ASA, in my opinion, has become dysfunctional and with growing pressure from its stakeholders and disenchantment from companies that feel they are being victimised by lobbyists brazenly manipulating the ASA, it is time for a complete re-think of just who should be doing the self-regulating of the advertising industry.
Of course the ASA will trot out its usual warning that if it is not allowed to be seen to be carrying on business as usual "government will take over. "
Which is an extremely fatuous argument because government did in fact take over as far back as 1949 with provisions in the Trade Practices Act that allowed for action to be taken on advertising matters.
However, the current government rescinded that legislation years ago, which is pretty much proof that the last thing that government wants to get involved in is judging advertising.
Apart from currently being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is non-executive chairman of Bizcommunity. He used to be head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
Its hard to comment except at the risk of sounding like one has an "axe to grind" maybe a body like the ASA needs to carry out its business - but this lot - to the chopping block. Posted on 19 Jul 2012 15:15
The "large pharmaceutical company" to which Chris Moerdyk refers is Solal Technologies; actually a rather moderate sized 'neutraceutical' compay selling a wide range of alternative medicines. That is one example of the way Moeryk twists the truth in this article.
He is slso guilty of blatant falsehoods. I refer to the statement: "coming a small group of four health industry activists who by their own admission have never bought or used any of the company's products". Many of the complaints with the ASA against Solal advertisements were laid by me – and I have never admitted anything of the sort. Several of those complaints have received a response in my favour from the ASA - most have yet to have any decision because of ASA inefficiencies.
Let’s leave aside the fact that there is no requirement for a complainant to the ASA to actually have purchased the product in question. And let’s leave aside the fact that I am a consumer of the adverts themselves – by virtue of their placement in the newspapers I read. Lets also set aside the moral requirement of advertisers to tell the truth.
I am a consumer of health products. I am a consumer of products that Solal sells. My ex-wife used to buy plenty of Solal products – on a pharmacy account which I paid. I personally have bought Solal products. However – ever since their legal demand in response to my perfectly reasonable ASA complaints - I obviously no longer care to support them and buy competitors products instead.
Moerdyk is suggesting that I am one of the four who he claims has never consumed a Solal product – or that I am the ‘actual’ consumer who has only submitted one complaint. Either way – the statement is wrong.
It is outrageous to claim that I am not a consumer. And that type of SLAPP action in response to valid complaints is an outrageous abuse of a financial imbalance.
I made it clear to Moerdyk in a private email ome months ago that I had consumed alternative health products. It is irresponsible of one who commands the position he does to make false claims like this.
I agree with the thrust of the article, that the ASA does indeed need to get its act together. But I am dubious about the ‘facts’ presented – like the above, I believe they are twisted to support his own views about unfettered and unregulated advertising. Views which alarmingly appear to be aligned with the 'neutraceutical' company whose product he has punted in other articles, and who have been liberal with the truth in their advertising. Posted on 20 Jul 2012 10:15
The print media have benefitted from accepting advertising for unproven "health products" (e.g. Sunday Times Lifestyle magazine's advertising of SA Natural Products over many months in 2011). They should not whinge about having to pay more to keep the ASA functional. The PMSA should be taking responsibility for setting a standard such that its members do not even accept advertising for unproven health products in the first place!
Surely Chris Moerdyk must be aware that the Solal products he seemingly supports have never had their safety or efficacy (whether they "work" or not) independently verified - let alone their "quality." Those capsules, tablets and syrups could contain anything from useless fillers (e.g. chalk dust) to toxic heavy metals (e.g. lead) and he would not be any the wiser. These products are not just "nutraceuticals." They are medicines by virtue of their claims to be suitable for use in a variety of medical conditions. In July 2012 in South Africa we do not have a legal definition of "nutraceutical" or for that matter of "food/dietary/nutritional supplement."
According to the Minister of Health's written answer in parliament on 29 October 2010, there are about 155,000 complementary medicines on the market that have *not* had their quality, safety or efficacy independently verified by a regulatory authority. (These include Solal's products).
It is the unfortunate pharmacist who is put at risk in order to make a living and is the final guarantor that such products meet the required standards. Health shop owners and assistants usually do not have the training to assess whether or not the products they sell are of sufficient quality. Consumers are most at risk - being duped by false claims and fancy packaging (which may cost more than the very contents).
Advertisers of such products have gotten away for decades with "brazenly manipulating" the public into spending their disposable income on "promises of better health" with minimal or no evidence for their claims. Publishers and broadcasters of these advertisements have clearly been willing partners in this process.
The ASA has at least ensured that the public have been protected from a few of the most egregious advertising claims made for the overabundance of "health products" available. Posted on 21 Jul 2012 14:02
It’s hard not to get defensive when you get kicked while sitting down, even more so when retaliation might just elicit criticism that you can’t see the forest from the trees. However, sometimes a young upstart has to defer to arrogance rather than elegance in dealing with the ramblings of constipation. Full disclosure first - I manage the investigative team at the ASA (NOT athletics or accounting SA - the Advertising Standards Authority). While I could lay the blame for my own ramblings at the foot of many an article (or my own ignorance), those published yesterday by "legendary" Chris Moerdyk and Glenda Nevill will serve as adequate scapegoat for now (hearing Angel Jones laughing all the way from Twitter-land didn't help, nor did the "hear-hear" from old colleagues). This rebuttal is my own, not that of management or the Board (which means I might have to clean out my desk on Monday).
I have to also confess that issues surrounding our annual budget don't cross my desk, so I won't be adding any new insights here. However, in my just-under-a-decade inside the belly of this beast, I've learnt a few things (still working on how to digest snotty articles though).
Firstly, SO MUCH is made about ASA funding, which I might add is a rather paltry sum (R10m in 2011) when compared to the funds thrown at SAARF (roughly R90m in 2011). Admittedly, we don't tell you where best to reach your market; we only protect you once your brand has been exploited or your competitor gains unfair advantage due to false claims. What's more, we only employ 22 people (including cleaners and admin) - of which only 15 are involved in the day-to-day investigations. BUT (a big one, like the kind Sir Mix-a-Lot sang about), we have a clean, unqualified audit each year, and an uneventful AGM each year, so somewhere someone is doing something right, right?
Mr Moerdyk (in a style reminiscent of my late uncle - sitting on the porch barking at all the passers-by) also has a go at our tendency to entertain "health industry activists", citing the (apparently) infamous repercussions this tendency of ours had for the cell-phone industry. Besides sounding very much like a pharmaceutical manufacturer his wife and daughters-in-law regard as a "holy grail" (Chris’ words, not mine), he seemingly forgets that the aforementioned cell-phone activist single-handedly ensured that cell-phone pricing became transparent and honest (something that the industry was reluctant to do until the government tried to intervene). While on the topic, had we had such activists in the credit industry, we would perhaps not have seen the National Credit Act come to be? It's also somewhat amusing that WHEN government try and take over, industry jumps at the chance to advocate self-regulation (those readers who are familiar with Appendix M of the ASA Code will possibly concur?) Sure, we're being sued; on the one hand by a church claiming to (miracle) heal people of all sorts of diseases, and on the other by a "big pharmaceutical" who have yet to produce acceptable proof of efficacy of their "holy grail" products ... (read into this what you will), and who threatens to sue ANYBODY who complains about their unsubstantiated ads. For now I can simply smile and say "it's sub judice".
It seems that the little fact that people forget without fail, is that we do not make the rules, or set the procedures - YOU DO ... we merely enforce them. Surely if the industry didn't want activism it would have made this point in the Code? In fact, I would like to challenge Mr Moerdyk and Co to clarify when last they proposed any kind of amendment to the Code (something we consider annually), or when last they attended ANY ASA hearing or perhaps even an AGM?
For Glenda, I can only provide info from a day-to-day operations perspective: We receive on average 2000-plus complaints a year, although it appears to be on an annual increase of approximately 6% if I compare 2010, 2011 and so far for 2012. We are constantly looking at ways of improving output and turnaround time, and my sterling team (even large media corporations noted their friendly manner) have increased output year on year, with innovation and dedication (compared to Jan – Jun 2011, we’ve increased output by 29% this year, and have already finalised just over 300 investigations for 2012). Are we adequately staffed?? In my humble opinion; not completely. Our consumer division is taking serious strain (70% of all Directorate rulings come from this division). My competitor and compliance divisions are lending a helping hand as often as possible, but influx still trumps output.
I once heard an expression ... “Opinions are like backsides - everybody has one, but that doesn't entitle you to show it off in public. I did not intend to pay tribute to Sir Mix-a-Lot by flaunting mine (opinion that is), but I had to make the point that it’s always fun to laugh at the leper, just don’t forget that he’s your son. Next time the guru's feel like commenting or complaining about the beast that is the ASA, perhaps do so in a constructive manner, taking part in the process and organisation you and your predecessors established, rather than embodying the subject of Metallica's song “My Friend of Misery” … Posted on 24 Jul 2012 13:43
In his column of 19 July 2012 , Moerdyk makes the claim that according to the ASA’s own records that there has “been only one complaint in the past 15 years from an actual consumer, with all of the rest coming a small group of four health industry activists who by their own admission have never bought or used any of the company's products.” He goes on to dismiss the longstanding relationship between the ASA and MCC. It is clear from this column in conjunction with a previous column by Moerdyk published on News24.com , that Moerdyk has uncritically accepted information provided by the “large pharmaceutical company” he refers to – Solal Technologies (Pty) Ltd., without checking his facts.
The four “activists” include two medical doctors: Prof. Roy Jobson and myself: Dr Harris Steinman. The others are Marcus Low (Treatment Action Campaign) and Kevin Charleston (consumer). Complaints have also been submitted by Dr Laithwaithe. Significantly, these “activists” were operating independently; Solal’s vexatious attacks on them made them cognisant of each other. There is no record of any of them having stated that they have not used a Solal product. This is not a requirement of the ASA. Moerdyk’s argument is further illogical. One does not need to have AIDS/HIV to be an AIDS activist. Nevertheless, it so happens that one of the four (Charleston) has publicly stated that he used to consume Solal products.
Moerdyk uncritically accepts Solal’s argument that no relationship existed between the MCC and ASA. I am informed by Professor Jobson that he undertook an official visit, sanctioned by the MCC, to the then CEO of the ASA, Mrs Dalene Beukes. This was while Jobson was still a Council member of the MCC and Chairperson of the MCC's pharmacovigilance committee. His report on his visit to the ASA is reflected in the MCC's minutes of that time. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the ongoing relationship of the MCC with the ASA, especially in the context of pharmacovigilance. Although the present Registrar has access to those minutes she may well be completely unaware of the relationship and may not have been informed of it by administrative staff or the Chairperson of the MCC Professor Peter Eagles. I am aware of other evidence that supports a relationship.
Moerdyk gives the impression that Solal are the aggrieved party and that the ASA and the four “activists” are at fault. He gives credibility to Solal’s arguments and apparently accepts their claims. Such claims include that an anti-aging pill can increase longevity although the evidence for this is derived from earthworms , that “too much sugar may accumulate fat and make learning difficult” based on pseudoscientific arguments extrapolated from research on rats, and that Vitamin D is as effective as a vaccine, a claim extrapolated from a small sample of Japanese schoolgirls. Although a few of over 15 ASA rulings against this company may be contentious, the majority are entirely appropriate. A particularly outrageous claim for one of their products which was ruled against by the ASA is that it can prevent the development of breast cancer in women at high risk of breast cancer . This is not only a false claim but could create a false sense of security in women at risk – to their detriment. Solal has claimed that Whey Protein is a valuable treatment for AIDS. It most certainly isn't. That the “pharmaceutical company has sued it [the ASA] with litigation documentation running into a couple of thousand pages” does not render Solal’s claims true.
In the News24.com column, Moerdyk (influenced by a pre-published editorial in Solal’s Health Intelligence Magazine) attacks the Directorate Food Control for having “effectively banned truthful claims as well." Despite this author [HS] pointing out to Moerdyk that he and Solal are misinformed, and that phase two of the regulations will address his (and Solal's) concerns, he has chosen not to inform readers of this.
Moerdyk also appears to not appreciate, nor understand, that the number of complaints from consumers to both the ASA and the Consumer Commission has increased disproportionately to the size of both those organisations. It is an entirely different ball park from the time he himself was a part of the ASA. Another major (and important) change has taken place in that the ASA Directorate are now, as they should always have been, critically assessing the substantiation from the advertiser at face value. It is no longer acceptable for the ASA to accept that the advertising claims are true just because a single “expert” says they are. It is also no longer acceptable for the ASA to accept that because certain ingredients in a product can be shown to have certain effects, that the product as a whole (which may have different doses of the ingredients) has the effects claimed. This latter improvement (to the public benefit) in the ASA's rulings was even objected to by the Health Products Association.
Moerdyk should also note that the “chief” pharmacist of Solal Mr Brent Murphy at one stage substantiated a product called “Ultima Fat Away.” His substantiation was subsequently shown to be scientifically faulty by a reputable arbitrator. Most of Solal's products are said to have been formulated by Murphy. It is highly desirable that when false advertising claims are made for products such as those being formulated by Murphy and being sold by Solal, the ASA is enabled to rule against those claims – no matter whether the complainants are labelled activists or not. That is essentially irrelevant. What is vital is to ensure that the system of self-regulation adopted by the ASA (and the advertising industry) works in the public interest.
Indeed, Solal have done their best to hamper this process: “The respondent’s pattern of disputing every decision made by the ASA (whether in relation to a complaint or merely procedural and administrative in nature) is well documented in other rulings. This does not serve any purpose other than delay proceedings and cause undue prejudice to a complainant in any matter. The Directorate sees no need to entertain all the arguments and potential red herrings put up by the respondent“.
Let Moerdyk express his opinions by all means. But surely someone of his experience and with his reputation would attempt to be factually correct. Readers are entitled to know that on the apparent recommendations of his wife and daughters he seemingly uncritically supports Solal . Solal is using legal means to try and prevent the ASA from ruling on unproven health claims being made by itself and similar companies.
Solal has furthermore threatened all four “activists” referred to, and other commentators, with legal action for expressing their truthful views, and in fact appealed the MCC's decision to rescind the faulty 2002 Complementary Medicines 'call-up'.
It certainly cannot be in the public interest for pharmaceutical companies such as Solal to advertise untested and unproven remedies to the public – which by and large (and seemingly includes the Moerdyk family) does not have the scientific background to distinguish true from false claims. In this particular instance, “nannying” is called for.
In the interests of transparency, it is only right that members of the public know that both Steinman and Jobson are merely GP’s. While Rhodes University has bestowed the title of “Associate Professor of Pharmacology” upon Jobson, he nevertheless is a GP with a Master’s degree in family practice, and has no formal qualifications in pharmaceutical sciences. Neither of them for that matter have any formal education in pharmaceutical sciences; let alone any formal post-graduate pharmaceutical degrees. They are of the belief that advertising must meet their self-imposed standards. Remarkably it appears that most or all of Steinman’s references that are cited and that he relies on are those which he himself contrived.
Whether Charleston may or may not have used any Solal products is of course a “red herring”. The ASA makes it a prerequisite that a complainant must have suffered harm or potential harm in order to lodge a complaint. (The ASA ignore their own rules in this regard.) Neither Charleston, nor the other two serial complainants (Steinman and Jobson) have ever alleged that they have suffered any harm or for that matter, any other complementary medicine product. Whilst the lunacy and fuss that has been created on the one hand is remarkable given that nutraceuticals have not caused one injury or death. With the hype that these serial complainants have created, one would believe that dead bodies would be lining the streets. Their terminology and vociferous opposition to anything that is even related to complementary medicines seems to lack transparency and reason.
The abovementioned “red herring” is raised to deflect from the real issue that Chris Moerdyk has raised, that being the ASA has perpetuated a fraud in that it claimed a “mandate” from the MCC to administer a code of practice relating to the advertising of medicines. The ASA’s fraud was further perpetuated by the ASA claiming they were doing so in terms of Section 18C of the Medicines Act. The effect of this fraud was to lend an aura of credibility and acceptability to appendices A and F, where none should duly exist, as they had the effect of banning truthful claims It is this fraud that Solal inter alia seeks to put an end to by way of its litigation against the ASA. It seems to me that this fraud was instigated by Jobson meeting with the ASA (as alluded to by Steinman).
Steinman suggests that Moerdyk accepts Solal’s argument that no relationship exists with the ASA and MCC. This is one example of how Steinman has attempted to mislead the readers. Steinman omits to advise the readers that it is the MCC itself and the Registrar of Medicines that confirmed (in writing) that no formal relationship exists with the ASA and the MCC. This is not surprising given that as a creature of statute the MCC is not permitted by law to delegate any functions to the ASA or any other organisation for that matter. Steinman’s attempt to label Solal’s desire to have its dispute with Steinman and his “co-activists” ventilated in a court of law “a vexatious attack” is absurd. Every person or company is entitled to have disputes ventilated in a court of law.
Quite frankly the ASA, in terms of their own articles, has nothing to do with pharmacovigilance, and Jobson, in visiting the ASA and making recommendations in order to implement the fraudulent appendix, hardly creates a formal relationship that by law, is not permitted.
Some of Charleston’s so called “reasonable complaints”, were perpetuated on this very fraud. He complained against Solal based on a so called breach of Appendix F, which appendix to the ASA code exists solely on account of the ASA’s aforementioned fraud. Charleston persisted with his complaint even though he knew Appendix F was based on a fraud. Jobson has conflicted himself in lodging complaints pursuant to Appendix F on the one hand, yet making representations to the ASA in order to implement and enforce the fraudulent Appendix F on the other hand. How can he have a hand in drafting it and then use it as a tool for his own personal agenda to lodge complaints at the ASA? Jobson, as an ex-member of one of the sub-committees of the Medicine Control Council, must have known that the ASA could not have administered these appendices on behalf of the MCC. In any event he is assisting another party being sued together with the ASA in an attempt [to] show to why the fraudulent Appendix F is valid.
Steinman’s posting is disingenuous and distortive and attempts to mislead the readers. Steinman labels editorials written by Chris Moerdyk and I, wherein we criticised the Department of Health for banning truthful claims in relation to foods, as misleading. I am advised that Steinman himself was involved in the drafting of these very same draconian food regulations. Somehow, he believes that the contingent possibility of unbanning truthful statements in the future (about foods by their manufacturers) in the public interest somehow justifies their current banning. The insanity of Steinman’s argument is that the department MAY look into allowing truthful claims in the future without any guarantee that they will permit them in the future. Steinman has the gall to suggest that Moerdyk’s and my criticism of the banning of truthful food claims that exists now is somehow misleading. It is completely unconstitutional to ban truthful claims, yet the ban currently remains in place. What may or may not happen in the future is completely irrelevant to the fact that, right now, and for an unknown, and probably indefinite period, these truthful claims are banned. Steinman has also recently gone on record in an article in a national newspaper, stating, amongst other things, that 99% of CAMS (complementary and alternative medicines) products available in South Africa are “scams”. To illustrate how ridiculous this statement by Steinman is, let me set it out by means of actual numbers:
1) There are approximately 155 000 CAMS products on the market in South Africa at the moment; 2) If we are to believe that 99% of these products are scams, then that equates to a figure of 153 450 CAMS products on the South African market that are scams / pseudo-scientific. 3) If Steinman had to spend merely ten minutes researching each supposedly scam product, based on the above figures, it would take him 25 757 hours to do so. If we are to assume that Steinman would devote 8 hours per day, 5 days per week to the above research (which would be impossible, considering that he has a full-time job, he is kept very busy submitting and responding to Advertising Standards Authority complaints, writing essays on his and others’ websites and spouting forth diatribes about the supposed dangers of CAMS on electronic forums, that would mean that this “research” would take him 3197 working days, or approximately 4105 days in total. 4) This would equate to 11 years and 3 months, working 8 hours per weekday, including public holidays. Please bear in mind once again, that the duration of 10 minutes of research per product is entirely inadequate in order to determine the veracity of the claims made in respect of each such product. Therefore, although this figure of 11 years and 3 months may seem extreme, but it is in fact an extremely conservative estimate.
I draw the reader’s attention to the fact that there are thousands of untested pharmaceuticals on the market which have never been evaluated for their safety and efficacy or have been registered by the Medicine Control Council as alluded to by Brent Murphy. These pharmaceuticals being invented molecules could pose a significant danger to the public.
The ASA are not experts (even by their own admission) when it comes to substantiation, so it is incongruent that they could judge an expert’s evidence as being correct or not. Furthermore their argument that evidence needs to be product specific, and that this is “trite” is also not specified in their code. It is a fabrication on the ASA’s part. Generic evidence from monographs and other scientific research is used for medicine indications and claims throughout the world. For example each brand of paracetamol in the world does not have to prove that that particular brand of paracetamol cures a headache. This would be a huge duplication of research – having to prove that paracetamol cures a headache for every brand; instead, all that is needed is to show that the product contains paracetamol, in the dose that GENERIC evidence already available shows to be effective. In such cases generic, non-product specific evidence is acceptable. And if generic evidence is acceptable for medicine regulators all over the world, including the FDA, then it should be acceptable to the ASA as well.
Steinman and Jobson have both assisted the Sugar Association who procured that the ASA ban Solal’s advertising stating inter alia that “eating excess sugar can cause weight gain” and “eating excess sugar can cause diabetes”, even though the World Health Organisation in a bulletin has warned South Africans that they consume too much sugar. So much for wanting to protect the public! Steinman, the whole world knows eating too much sugar will make you fat. Steinman’s cynical suggestion that such is only proven in animal studies is laughable and therefore such claim should be banned by the ASA is madness.
Steinman’s further argument that one cannot extrapolate data in animal studies to humans is not completely true, as is the case for many of his other comments. For a start, all research must be granted ethical approval by an ethics committee at the university were the proposed study is to be performed. No ethics committee in the world would ever permit research which has a known and significant harmful outcome in humans, especially if there is already data indicating as much in animal studies. This means that if it has been shown in animal studies that “eating excess sugar may cause diabetes”, and “eating excess sugar may cause obesity”, then one will never be able to experiment with humans to see how obese people become, or how severe the likely diabetes will develop in the presence of a diet high in sugar. This is such a simple concept in medical ethics, a subject that both Steinman and Jobson should both have studied at medical school, yet the point seems to sail meaninglessly over their heads.
Often the most current research comes from animal research. For example, one does not have to prove arsenic or cyanide is fatal to humans, before claiming that it may be harmful to humans, if research on animals shows this to be the case. Similarly sometimes it is impossible to verify how a substance works (e.g. by resveratrol activating anti-aging genes) unless animal or invitro models are used, since the alternative of cutting up a living human to determine a mechanism of action is unthinkable. Furthermore Harris is raising old news from many years ago when we did not indicated clearly when data was based on animals or humans – nowadays, and for years, we are very clear when animal evidence suggests benefit or harm, compared to human data. Furthermore Steinman is incorrect that we relied on rat data to make the claim that excess sugar can cause fat-gain. That research was on humans, South Africans in fact – and emanated from the World Health Organisation.
SOLAL products are developed by a team of pharmacists, doctors, nutritionists and dieticians, using internationally resourced research and scientific evidence. They most certainly are not developed by a one-man show, Brent Murphy. Brent is merely one of a team.
I think it is important to point out that whilst Steinman accuses Solal of using administrative and procedural aspects to hamper ASA’s process, he is being disingenuous to imply that Solal has fairly been attacked on substantiation issues, i.e. for making false claims. This is not true – Solal has been primarily attacked on technical non-substantiation issues (e.g. making TRUTHFUL claims that have fallen foul of appendix F, which itself is fraudulent). This has nothing to do with claims, but unfair technicality.
In cases where the ASA has requested substantiation (which we have supplied), the ASA has cynically and unfairly dismissed our experts that include Professors of Medicine and Deans of Pharmacy faculties, even though the ASA is not an expert itself and employs non-legally or non-medically trained persons, including matriculants to evaluate complaints. The ASA has inappropriately called for product specific evidence, even though this is not the norm in generic medicines, even amongst government regulators like the FDA. CAMS i.e. nutraceuticals are GENERIC (i.e. non-patented) medicines.
Solal, as well as our colleagues at most other CAMS manufacturers, media commentators, legal experts and the like are astounded at the volume of time that Charleston, Steinman and Jobson devote to rubbishing everything that is remotely related to complementary medicines and or health products. I wonder how this group of activists finds the time to devote to their obsessions with their attack on the complementary industry, and generate most of the complaints at the ASA regarding CAMS. Who funds these activists and the organisations that they represent; could it possibly be Big Pharma, who have seen a dip in their sales on account of people remaining healthier for longer by using quality CAMS products? Phrased differently, what is the real reason for these vigilantes’ virtual declaration of a Jihad against the complementary medicines industry? I wonder.
My reason for refusing to debate this further is I have no intention of feeding the trolls, namely Charleston, Steinman and Jobson. For those readers who are unaware of what a troll (in context) is, it is defined as per Wikipedia as follows: "In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.” These trolls have wasted enough of my time. Ultimately these issue will not doubt be ventilated in court. Posted on 24 Jul 2012 13:46
Brent Murphy, Pharmacist and Director of Solal Technologies:
I am one of the team of pharmacists that work for SOLAL Technologies and I need to correct some misrepresentations Roy Jobson has made about SOLAL Technologies.
Jobson implies that our products could contain toxins or useless fillers. This is false. All of our raw materials are identified both in terms of their active ingredients, as well being screened for toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, and when applicable, undesirable alkaloids or oxidative degradation. Furthermore we are one of the few nutraceutical supplement companies in South Africa that verifies that the raw materials that go into our products are correctly identified. We also perform stability studies on our formulations after manufacture to ensure the integrity of components remain intact.
Whilst we cannot speak for other nutraceutical companies, SOLAL strives to maintain GMP (good manufacturing practices) and quality assurance. Furthermore, since our products are manufactured in pharmaceutical facilities that are licenced by the Department of Health to manufacture medicines, the exact amount of actives, as well as any inactive ingredients (fillers), where applicable, are known. We don’t use “chalk dusts” as fillers, as Jobson suggests.
Jobson further tries to confuse the reader that the mere non-registration of nutraceutical supplements, also known as complementary and alternative medicines (CAMS) in South Africa is evidence enough that they are unsafe or ineffective, since the Medicines Control Council (MCC) has not yet got around to evaluating any of the 155 000 CAMS in South Africa for safety or efficacy. However the fact that the MCC has not yet evaluated them, does not change the fact that there is ample independent scientific evidence from universities and governments all over the world to support both the effectiveness and safety of CAMS. I should add that there are hundreds, if not thousands of (non-CAM) pharmaceutical medicines on the South African market which have also not been evaluated by the MCC for safety or efficacy, including well-known brands of pain medicines, some anti-cancer pharmaceuticals, certain anti-allergy medicines and many more. The mere evaluation, or lack thereof, by the MCC, of a medicine, be it CAMS or pharmaceutical, does not change its effectiveness or safety. It is what it is.
Importantly, research from the American Association of Poison Control Centres’ - National Poison Data System reveals, there were no deaths linked to nutritional supplements in 2010 in the USA. Contrast this to the 106 000 people that die in the USA alone from prescription medicines annually. If nutritional supplements are allegedly so "dangerous," as anti-vitamin activists like to claim, then where are all the bodies?
CAMS (including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and herbal extracts) are routinely prescribed and administered by doctors: Iron for anaemia; n-acetyl-cysteine for paracetamol overdose; carbocysteine to loosen pleghm; senna herb for constipation; alginic acid (from seaweed) for indigestion; milk thistle for liver disease; folic acid to prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy; digitalis (from the foxglove plant) for heart beat irregularities, and many more. Doctors throughout the centuries have always used CAMS, including hundreds of doctors in South Africa that use, prescribe and recommend Solal products specifically. In fact, an analysis of the origin of all medicines developed between 1981 and 2002 showed that CAMS and plant extracts comprised 28% of all new medicines launched onto the market. Posted on 24 Jul 2012 13:51
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