The Australian obesity epidemic and the regulation of complementary medicine weight loss products

Ken Harvey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
75 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: Investigate the response of the Therapeutic Goods Administration's (TGA) new advertising complaint system to resubmitted complaints about complementary medicine weight loss products previously upheld by the Complaint Resolution Panel. 

Methods: Between July 2018 and July 2019, complaints about a convenience sample of 22 complementary medicines by eight sponsors, advertised on 140 different internet sites (cases), were resubmitted to the TGA. FatBlaster products featured. Follow-up occurred in February 2021. 

Results: A search of the TGA advertising complaints database found 'no result' for 84% of the 140 cases submitted. Despite the TGA delisting three products and sponsors delisting ten others, all products complained about were still being advertised. Some products had minor changes in imagery but not claims. The sponsor (Cat Media, Naturopathica) had listed three new FatBlaster weight loss products. 

Conclusions: The TGA failed to protect consumers from ineffective weight loss medicines. 

Implications for public health: Weight loss medicines with misleading and deceptive claims are likely to divert users from evidence-based weight loss activities. The TGA should ask for the evidence supporting promotional claims for these products and, if this is lacking, delist the entire class of products. For recalcitrant sponsors who repeatedly make egregious claims, civil and criminal penalties should be applied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-586
Number of pages3
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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