Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Best Research Money Can Buy

By Peter Bowditch

Why is Swisse funding research into the effectiveness of its vitamins when the TGA requires it to have such evidence prior to their listing?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Imagine you are a university administrator and someone approaches you with an offer of $15 million for your research budget. You would leap at it, because that amount of money can fund a lot of resources. I worked in a very sophisticated laboratory once that cost $8 million to build on an empty block of land, so even if you were to create the facilities from scratch there would still be money left over for running costs.

An offer of this amount has been made to at least two Australian universities over recent months, while another two are rumoured but not confirmed at the time of writing. The first three rejected the offer, which was finally accepted by La Trobe.

You might wonder why anyone would refuse this, but it was because the donation was tied to conducting specific research into the products of a single company, the vitamin manufacturer Swisse. Swisse has come in for some attention from the ACCC recently for the wording used in its advertisements, but as all distributors of vitamins at least suggest some amorphous benefits from using their products this isn’t enough reason to refuse to take their money.

The matter received publicity when Dr Ken Harvey resigned from his position at La Trobe because of the Swisse donation. Harvey is a well-known critic of medical quackery, and was sued by a distributor of a make-you-thin product for pointing out...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.