Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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October 13, 2006

New Zealand Coroners Investigation: Natural Medicines Safest Way To Health

Dr Wallace Bain, Acting Chair of the New Zealand Coroners' Council, has recently released a report of an investigation into deaths caused by natural health medicines in New Zealand. The New Zealand government has been pushing for greater control over natural medicines by way of legislation, to create a combined Australia New Zealand Therapeutics Products Authority but the report says that there are "no problems to be solved" by new legislation.


New Zealand - image credit: BBC

The push for new legislation to make alternative medicine safe and to protect consumers from nutritional supplements is not limited to just Australia and New Zealand. In fact the European Union has taken steps in that direction with recent controversial legislative moves such as its Food Supplements Directive, Herbal Medicines Directive, and with a so-called "Health Claims" initiative still under development, while Canada has regulated natural health products under the pharmaceutical division of Health Canada. The US is not immune to changes either. Various legislative proposals that impinge on the relative liberty of Americans to acquire and use natural and nutritious remedies are on the books. Like in other parts of the world, they are being pushed in the name of "safety".

An international agency that sets standards for foods - Codex Alimentarius - has also weighed in on the discussion with a controversial "food supplements guideline" approved in July 2005.


Codex Alimentarius Nutrition Committee - Image by Sepp

Critics of these moves - I am one of them - say that behind the push to solve a non-problem with supplements and natural medicines, there are hidden commercial interests, notably those of pharmaceutical producers who fear competition by natural substances for part of their "business with disease".

The recent New Zealand Coroner's Council report confirms that the critics may have a point. There is no problem to solve and the world wide legislative moves to curb the availability of natural cures and nutritious substances are really part of a different agenda.

Here is the report from New Zealand.

- - -

I would like to thank Michael Bending of the Alliance for Health Freedom Australia for sending this report.  

Dear Health Freedom Advocate, 

Dr Wallace Bain, Acting Chair of the Coroner's Council, has just released this report into deaths caused by natural health medicines in New Zealand.

He highlights the information in light of the push by the New Zealand government for greater control over natural medicines by way of legislation to create the Australia New Zealand Therapeutics Products Authority (ANZTPA).

Michael Bending

- - -

Natural medicines - the safest way to avoid death

A report just released by the Acting Chair of the Coroner's Council has shown natural medicines have the lowest fatality rate of all medical treatments in New Zealand.

Despite extensive research, coroner Dr Wallace Bain found no deaths have occurred in New Zealand due to natural medicines such as vitamins, minerals and herbal products.

Dr Bain, who is also a trained pharmacist and lawyer, undertook the study in light of growing opposition to new legislation that will see New Zealand's natural health industry come under Australian laws.

The safety of natural products is often cited as a reason for the need for such a move.

The Labour government plans that the Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Authority (ANZTPA) will soon replace the current Medsafe agency as part of a trans-Tasman harmonisation push. Opponents fear this move will decimate New Zealand's natural health industry as has already occurred in Australia.

At present lack of support from New Zealand First, the Maori and Green parties is the only thing stopping the legislation coming into effect.

Says Dr Bain: "In my capacity as Acting Chair of the Coroner's Council, I enquired of all Coroners as to whether or not from a search of their Coronial findings they could find any instances where there had been a problem with any of these natural products."

"They were asked to provide any information from inquests where these products had been involved whether or not a death had resulted. At the same time the Coronial records held by the Ministry of Justice in Wellington were searched at my request by ministry staff."

Dr Bain's study returned a finding of zero deaths from natural remedies.

His only findings were:

* A three-year-old child who choked to death on a vitamin tablet in 2003 that was too large for the child to swallow

* A woman who terminated her third pregnancy after a scan showed the foetus had spina bifida. The woman had been taking 300μg of folic acid a day rather than the recommended 800μg per day

* A man who died from non-viral hepatitis of unknown origin who also had a pre-existing prostate cancer condition. The man had been taking an Indian herbal product K4. The Corner's report said despite no certainty of a link with the herbal product, the remedy should be banned until more was known about its effects on liver toxicity

* Some ongoing inquests into party pills

In contrast, deaths in 1998 (the last year of detailed official statistics available) caused by adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs killed 1524 New Zealanders and deaths associated with medical injury (mistakes by doctors and medical staff) killed 4222 New Zealanders.

Says Dr Bain: "A recent Australian study shows that 1 in 10 patients presenting to a general practitioner had an adverse pharmaceutical drug event in the preceding six months with 50% of those being in the moderate to severe range and 8% requiring hospitalisation."

"A New Zealand study reported in July of 2006 and referred to Parliament's Health Committee pointed to previous research suggesting problems such as hospital acquired infection, drug error and staff mistakes are costing this country around $870 million a year. This prompted the Health Minister to ensure that District Health Boards gave priority to reducing such adverse events - most clearly identified as being drug induced."

Also in Dr Bain's report is mention of a US study that puts complications resulting from medication errors in American hospitals at 1.5 billion US dollars per year. Studies also show that prescription drug errors double a person's risk of dying in hospital. Another study put the cost of a single adverse drug event to a hospital in the US at $US2,500.

"The estimate of costs incurred by US hospitals as a result of drug-related injury or death was put at $US76.6 billion which was three times the cost of all diabetes care in the United States," says Dr Bain.

"What is ironic here is that what is being held out as a justification for high regulation and compliance in the area of complementary medicines and natural products in New Zealand is public safety and risk. Despite a diligent search of Coronial records and the literature, no instances have been found to demonstrate that in fact these products have any serious public health issue or risk."

"The problem is clearly with prescription and other drugs," says Dr Bain. "The Coronial and literature searches in so far as natural products are concerned and linkages to public safety and risk can be described legally as De minimis no curat lex. That is - of minimal risk importance.

"The law does not and should not concern itself with such trifles."

Dr Bain's report has been sent to Annette King.

Dr Bain is available for comment directly on 021 750 704 or via me, Kimberley Paterson on 09 4244218

or 0273 454570. You can also contact Dr Bain directly on 021 750 704

If you need more information, please contact me

Kind regards

Kimberley Paterson
09 4244218

my comment:

The New Zealand Coroners investigation fully validates earlier work by Ron Law, also from New Zealand, which resulted in graphics comparing the causes of death from various causes. The graphics can be accessed from the site of La Leva di Archimede.

See also:

The Bain Coroners report

Alliance for Health Freedom Australia

New Zealand Health Trust


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Friday October 13 2006
updated on Friday December 3 2010

URL of this article:


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Readers' Comments

Comment by email, as first try at commenting did not show full text:

Hi Sepp,

We read your interesting article and commented that we had used natural remedies in conjunction with "modern" medicine & had noticed a definite improvement in my joint mobility & activity when using natural supplements. I had a cancer operation a couple of years ago and the doctors were very impressed with my healing & recovery in a short time. We feel this
was partly due to the natural products I used to help with bruising and
swelling etc.

Cheers Darryl.

Posted by: Darryl Bartlett on October 17, 2006 04:52 AM


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