Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Think 'miracle juice' can cure cancer? Think again, lawmaker warns

MANILA, Philippines - A party-list lawmaker is preparing a measure to increase the government's regulation of sales presentations of food supplements now flooding the market.

This as more and more people end up in hospitals after replacing their regular medicines with "miracle juice" drinks, herbal tablets and other dietary supplements, according to Carol Jayne Lopez of the You Against Corruption and Poverty (YACAP) party-list.

Lopez hopes to change the "No Approved Therapeutic Claim" tag in products and advertisements to avoid misleading the public, particularly the masses.

The tag, she said, should be made more "understandable to all by printing it in plain English to the effect that health supplements have no curative effect, (that they are) not for treating disease and that they should not be made a substitute to regular medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration."

The lawmaker also wants to amend the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA) of 1997, which created the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC), to give the agency more teeth in regulating food supplement companies.

The health supplement business in the country has grown into a P150-billion industry as poor Filipinos who can't afford medical care turn to these products in the hope of getting cured, Lopez said.

She cited a cancer-stricken carpenter who spent more than P10,000 for boxes of "miracle juice" instead of undergoing chemotherapy, which costs around P20,000.

"Not only did the carpenter lose his last money in questionable health products, the sweet-talking health supplement agents also convinced the carpenter that he no longer needed to undergo chemotherapy because their wonder juice would suffice," the lawmaker said.

Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral earlier proposed to have health statements in labels on herbal supplements written in Tagalog. She said the tag should include the warning: "Ito ay hindi gamot, at hindi dapat gamitin sa panggagamot."

"Some [of the products] are not registered as drug products, but as food supplements. That's all it is: dagdag pagkain," Cabral explained.

She added, "Hindi namin sinasabing 'wag bumili ang tao ng health supplements. Ang gusto lang namin, alam mo kung ano ang binibili mo, na hindi mo ito dapat bilhin bilang gamot para sa sakit."

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