Health products are everywhere.
You could be wearing a helmet, or having your teeth cleaned, or using an artificial sweetener.
So where can you buy these products?
Health products in Australia are expensive, and the cost can make it harder for people to afford to buy them.
Now, a group of Australian scientists is warning you could be paying too much for things you need.
The big three health products currently being marketed in Australia – the blood pressure cuff, the dental implant and the insulin pump – are all made by multinationals, with the exception of the blood pressures cuff, which is produced by GlaxoSmithKline.
“This is an incredibly important issue because these products are not only necessary for everyday use, but also essential to our health,” says Dr Michelle Richey, who leads the Australian research team.
Richey’s team of researchers looked at the health risks posed by the blood and dental implant, which costs $100,000.
They looked at over 1,000 cases of the device, and found that a single injection of the devices device, with its high cost, was associated with three to five heart attacks, and a heart attack in a family of three could be linked to up to 60 per cent of heart attacks in Australia.
That’s because of the increased risk of infections caused by the injection.
In a separate study, the researchers found that the blood sugar cuff is also associated with a rise in blood pressure in adults, as well as a rise of around 1.5 to 2.5 mm in systolic blood pressure, and 2 to 4 mm in diastolic blood Pressure.
“In Australia, we spend about $7.7 billion on healthcare annually and we spend a lot of money on blood pressure monitoring,” says Richee.
“It’s a lot more than we spend on the heart and diabetes management.
There’s a very important safety aspect to this, and so we need to have a look at it very closely.”
Dr Richeys team has also looked at how the insulin pumps are sold in Australia, and what their potential health effects are.
While the blood pump is a vital piece of the puzzle, there are many other health products, including pacemakers and other prosthetic limbs, that are being marketed as well.
These are not products designed to treat the underlying cause of disease, but are intended for medical uses, such as monitoring people’s blood pressure or heart rates.
It’s likely that the insulin in these devices will also have some potential to cause an increased risk, but that’s not the only concern, says Radeys.
Many of these products contain chemicals known as preservatives that can be harmful to your body.
Preservatives in insulin products include butane, hydrogen peroxide and benzene.
As well as the high price, there is also the risk that these products can be contaminated with toxic chemicals.
For example, the company behind the insulin pill, Bristol-Myers Squibb, has been caught out in a similar scandal with their insulin pump.
The company has since changed the packaging, but not the ingredient list, and has removed the preservative from the product.
According to the Australian Consumer Law Centre, it’s a common practice for pharmaceutical companies to mislead consumers by making false claims that contain health warnings, or claims that can’t be substantiated.
“It’s very concerning that we are seeing some of these major manufacturers trying to hide the fact that they have potentially harmful chemicals in their products, which could be in them for decades,” says Robyn Dutton, Director of Consumer Affairs and Food Safety at the Australian Food Safety Authority.
What to do if you think you’re paying too little for your health products Australian consumer groups have called on the Australian government to introduce a ‘fair trade’ scheme for the country’s major health products.
This would see all major products sold under the Fair Trading Act, as opposed to being manufactured or sold by major multinationals.
Health groups have also called on major health brands to stop marketing products that contain preservatives, including the blood needle, dental implant or insulin pump, and instead focus on products that are safe and have fewer risks.
ABC Consumer Watchdog understands that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also investigating whether the companies behind the blood needles and the blood pumps have broken the law.
The group has already released a report that looks at some of the health effects of some of Australia’s most popular health products including the painkillers, blood pressure pills and pacemaking equipment.
To learn more about the risks of these popular products, check out our report on the health of Australia products.
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