Tighten regulation on electrotherapy devices

I was very concerned to read that expensive electrotherapy chairs are being sold to old folk in heartland areas (Magnetic pull of electrotherapy for the elderly; June 12).

More must be done to regulate such businesses, which lure the elderly in with free treatments to buy pricey machines with unverified health benefits.

The law is already in place; it is enforcement that is lacking.

The company, Cosmo Goodness, is known to the authorities.

There have been complaints against it to the Consumers Association of Singapore.

The Health Sciences Authority is also aware of the company, but has not taken action because the product is not considered a medical device and is, therefore, not subject to the Health Products Act.

Yet, the company claims the device can "alleviate headaches, shoulder stiffness, insomnia and chronic constipation".

Isn't this in breach of the law?

Other companies have been investigated by the Health Sciences Authority for similar violations, but little action seems to have been taken, beyond educating the companies and, sometimes, issuing written advisories.

These companies have operated with impunity for years, safe in the knowledge that the worst they will get is a slap on the wrist.

It is clear that a softly, softly approach is not tenable, and caveat emptor is insufficient.

During the parliamentary debates to pass the Health Products Act, it was stated that the proposed Bill was "essential to weed out snake oil merchants making outrageous health claims about their products".

Companies like Cosmo Goodness are precisely the type of operation this law was designed to regulate.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations prohibit the marketing of any magnet therapy product using medical claims.

It also publishes warning letters it sends to errant vendors.

Singapore can follow the FDA's lead.

Samuel Ling Ying Hong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2017, with the headline 'Tighten regulation on electrotherapy devices'. Print Edition | Subscribe