Look into sale of dubious health devices

A check with the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) shows that the devices have been withdrawn from certification.

A shop in Holland Drive sells $25,000 high-voltage electrotherapy chairs, and its customers are typically elderly heartland folk in poor health.

A check with the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) shows that the devices have been withdrawn from certification. I learnt that the HSA had previously told the company to stop promoting its devices as having medical benefits, but this continues unabated.

I was disheartened to learn that the HSA further investigated this chain, but determined that the devices themselves are not classified as medical devices under the Health Products Act 2007.

The Act was enacted to regulate, among other things, medical devices. During parliamentary debates to pass the Act, it was stated that the proposed Bill was "essential to weed out snake oil merchants making outrageous health claims about their products" ("Health items law can enforce after-sales scrutiny"; Feb 13, 2007).

Thus, products such as the chairs seem to fit squarely in the class of devices that Parliament intended to regulate.

The HSA's current "caveat emptor" approach seems inadequate in cases where vulnerable old folk are involved.

The HSA should regulate the sale of electromagnetic therapy devices more strictly. The Act, as it is currently drafted, is sufficiently broad to allow this.

Naturally, there is a concern of over-regulation, as devices like massagers could come under this Act.

However, this is where the HSA can exercise discretion. There is an overseas precedent for such class-specific prohibitions.

The United States Food and Drug Administration regulations prohibit the marketing of any magnet therapy product using medical claims, as such claims are unfounded.

Moreover, the devices in question purport to pass 14,000 volts through the human body.

While they seem to have been used without incident thus far, surely such a device ought to be tested and regulated by the HSA.


This article was first published on June 14, 2015.
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