Natural medicines – the safest way to avoid death
Thursday, 12 October 2006, 3:20 pm
Press Release: Coroner's Council
12 October 2006
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 this country.
Despite extensive research, coroner Dr Wallace Bain found no deaths have occurred in this country 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 sited 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 300mg of folic acid a day rather than the recommended 800mg per day
- A man who died from non-viral hepatitis of unknown origin who also had a pre-existing prostrate 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 such 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.