Alternative medicines

Covid vaccine incentives: Australian doctors now allowed to offer cash, prizes and alternative medicines – The Guardian


Doctors, pharmacists and workplaces can now incentivise people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine by offering rewards including cash, prizes and complementary and alternative medicines, in a move a professor of public health and expert on drugs regulation, Prof Ken Harvey, has described as “utter craziness”.

Since Covid-19 vaccines became available in Australia from February, some doctors have expressed frustration that strict rules around the promotion and advertising of medicines enforced by drugs regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration has meant they could not promote the vaccines as freely as they would have liked, including directly to patients during consults, or on social media.

The regulations are important because they prevent drugs companies and health professionals from making exaggerated claims about medicines and medical devices, and stop drug companies from advertising prescription drugs directly to consumers including through television, radio and social media.

But the regulations have also made vaccine promotion difficult during the pandemic.

In response, the TGA amended the rules, though only for the promotion of Covid-19 vaccines. While health professionals, corporate entities and media outlets can now communicate information publicly about TGA-approved Covid-19 vaccines, this information must be consistent with current commonwealth health messaging. Any promotion must not reference brand names such as Pfizer or AstraZeneca or any active ingredients that might identify the vaccines.

The rules do not allow any statements saying vaccines do not cause harm, or any false or misleading information.

But the changes do allow health professionals, corporate entities and media outlets to offer cash or other rewards to people who have been fully vaccinated. Rewards must not include alcohol, tobacco or medicines, however, listed medicines are allowed.

Listed medicines are those that don’t require regulatory categorisation into pharmacy-only or prescription-only substances, and are available widely including in pharmacists but also in supermarkets. Listed products are mostly complementary and alternative products such as vitamins, minerals and homeopathic treatments, unproven to have any medical benefit.

“Complementary medicines immune boosters are going gangbusters at the moment due to the pandemic,” Harvey said. Unless people have a specific vitamin deficiency, “they don’t work”, he said.



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