Channel 7’s Sunrise aired a news segment last week that was focused on the use of Berberine, and this supplement’s apparent rise in popularity within the wider public. The segment was predominantly focused on it’s possible use as a “weight loss drug” and made strong comparisons with that of the pharmaceutical medication Ozempic, using strategic headlines such as “Berberine vs Ozempic”, “Berberine’s Big Promises” and “Nature’s Ozempic” throughout.
It would be wise to consider that Channel 7 would seek out a qualified Natural Therapist, specifically a Naturopath or Herbal Medicine Practitioner, to provide an expert opinion on the pharmacological properties of Berberine as well as an informed review of its use in a clinical setting. However, in this instance a General Practitioner was featured and provided comment with clear bias between pharmaceutical medications and herbal medicine, prompting the questioning of their capacity to appropriately address the subject of Berberine – not Ozempic.
This was further highlighted in the false statement made by the GP relating to products sold on the Australian market, suggesting that only Ozempic was TGA approved and “Berberine and other natural products” are not. All Natural Medicine products, including those highlighted in the segment, sold within Australia are required by law to be registered with the TGA. To place a blanket statement over all Natural Medicine products and suggest they do not undergo the extensive processes to become TGA approved and are therefore not safe for individual use and consumption, is highly misleading and further strengthens the need for an expert natural therapist to address this topic on a public platform.
It should be acknowledged that the claims that were made surrounding Berberine were drawn from various online blogging platforms and the public sharing their experiences with this supplement, particularly in relation to weight loss. The responsibility to all natural medicine therapists when prescribing TGA approved products is that the same strict regulations are applied to the advertisement of any (approved) health claims. Unfortunately, within the social media space, how certain supplements are portrayed in our world of ‘influencers’ is mostly unregulated and unsubstantiated and arguably a factor that all health professionals are not in favour of.
The premise of the General Practitioners views to take caution with self-prescribing supplements are shared from a holistic perspective, however this argument failed to portray the in-depth understanding and highly individualised application that would have a practitioner arrive at prescribing any natural medicine supplement to the patient within their care. Beyond the use of Berberine, this news segment was strongly dismissive of natural medicine products in general. For the benefit of the wider audience a qualified natural medicine practitioner should have been called on to provide an informed expert opinion.