Solving New Zealand's Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) Product Crisis: A Risk-Based Proposal)

AuthorPeter J Harris & Ian C Shaw
PositionLLM (Hons), LLB, BSc (Chemistry); Legal and Research Counsel, Office of the Chief Coroner, Auckland/BSc (Hons), PhD, FRSC, CChem, FRCPath: Professor of Toxicology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
P J H*  I  C S
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) products have existed in
a regulatory vacuum for most of the past 30 years. With the national industry
now worth more than $1.4 billion/year, and in widespread breach of the few
regulations that apply to their products, it is no wonder that every attempt at
new legislation over the past 15 years has ultimately failed. In the face of risks
to public health from unsafe CA M products, false and misleading marketing of
these products, and outdated and inappropriate legislation, new measures are
desperately required . is article considers the history of CAM product reg ulation
in New Zealand, through the mechanisms of the Food Acts 1981 and 2014,
the Medicine Act 1981, and the Dietary Supplement Regulations 1985. It takes
examples of risk-based regulation in the new Food Act 2014 and the Medicines
Act 1981, and studies the nature of this regulatory device and the possibility of its
application to CAM products. is leads on to a consideration of the attempts at
updating the legislation around C AM products, and the problems encountered
along the way. Finally, the article outlines a new proposal for the regulation of
CAM products in New Zeal and – the risk-based Complementary and Altern ative
Medicinal Products Bill.
I. I
ere exists a pervasive Antipodean (if not more widespread), laissez-faire
attitude towards complementary and alternative medicine (CA M) products,
that they are regulated somehow; because that is just the way thing s are:
foods are regulated, medicines are regulated, so CA M products must be
regulated too. However, the truth about the regulation of CAM products
in New Zealand is more limited than the public expect. e New Zea land
regulations, the Dietar y Supplement Regulations (DSRs) 1985 came into
* LLM (Hons), LLB, BSc (Chem istry); Lega l and Resea rch Counsel, O ce of the Chief
Coroner, Auckland.
harris.pete rjohn@gmai With sincere th anks to my super visors, As sociate Professor
Debra Wilson and Profe ssor Ian Shaw for thei r unyielding a ssistance, p erseverance , and
support in the conduct of t his research.
BSc (Hons), PhD, FRSC, CChem, F RCPath: Professor of Toxicology, University of
Canterbury, Christchurch.
36 Canterbury Law Re view [Vol 24, 2018]
force in 1987 under the Food Act 1981.1e Regulations predate even the
term “complementary and alternative medicine”, and given their age and
limited scope, the Regulations are all but redundant. Consequently, CAM
products proli ferate relatively unche cked throughout the Ne w Zealand
market, generating huge prots in a $1.4 billion/year industry,2 and frequently
making il legal t herapeutic claims about ever ything from relieving headaches,
to treating cancer.3
A. Complementary and alternative medicine products
“A clear, objective and neutral … denition of [complementary and
alternative medicine] is the rst requirement for any reasoned debate and
di s c ou r se …”, 4 however, it remains one of the major problems of this area
due to disagreement on the appropriateness of the term “complementary and
alternative medicine”, let alone dening what the term incorporates.
It is important to note that this article is concerned with the regulation of
CAM products, not CAM modalities or practices. Nearly every organisation,
government, or regulatory body has a discrete denition of CAM products,
but they commonly separate CAM products into the two branches;
non-mainstream products used together with conventional medicine
(complementary medicine products), and those same products used in the
place of conventional medicine (alternative medicine products).5 is article
takes a broader and more exible approach.
e World Health Organization’s denition demonstrates the breadth
that comes with most denitions of ‘CAM’:6
e terms “complementary medicine” or “alternative
medicine” refer to a broad set of health care practices
that are not part of that countr y’s own tradition or
conventional medicine and are not fully integrated
into the dominant health-care system. ey are used
interchangeably with traditional medicine in some
countr ies.
1 Dieta ry Supplement Regulations 1985, s 1; Food Act 1981, s 42.
2 Natural Product s New Zeala nd “Report: Natura l Products Industr y a Signica nt Contributor
to NZ’s Economy” (press relea se, 19 February 2015) at 1.
3 Ministry of He alth Regulato ry Impact Statement : e Development of a Natu ral Health Products
Bill (June 2011) at 5–6.
4 Terry SH Kaan “Traditiona l, complementary, and a lternative medici ne” in Yann Joly and
Bartha Ma ria Knoppers (eds) Rou tledge Handbook of Me dical Law and Ethic s (Routledge,
Oxford, 2015) 419 at 419.
5 National Center f or Complementary a nd Integrative Hea lth “Complementary, Alte rnative,
or Integrative Hea lth: What’s In a Name?” (June 2016) .
6 World Healt h Organization WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy: 2014–2023 (WHO, online
ed, Geneva, 2013).

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