Last updated 1 February 2023

Most people at some stage in their life will use medicines to relieve symptoms of an illness or require a medical device to improve their quality of life. As with other consumer products, Australians are entitled to expect that therapeutic goods are safe and of a high standard. It is the responsibility of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to ensure not only the ongoing quality of these products but also the manufacturing, supply and advertising processes.

Medicines can be prescribed by a doctor, recommended by a pharmacist or bought at a supermarket. This may include things such as paracetamol, vitamins and antibiotics. Medical devices may include artificial knees and hips. A therapeutic good will also include human blood, blood products and tissues.

Most therapeutic goods must be entered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods before they can be supplied in Australia. Therapeutic goods are usually accompanied by consumer information explaining what the goods are used for and how they work, contraindications, precautions and possible side effects, guidelines for proper use and storage, unwanted effects or overdose and what to do in such situations.

Problems with medicines or medical devices should be reported to the TGA. The problems may relate to safety of the product or issues about the quality or effectiveness of the product. Recalling the product is one regulatory response to a therapeutic good that may be unsafe to consumers.

Unfortunately, recalling a product does not always occur in time and serious and sometimes permanent injury can be caused by an adverse reaction to a medicine or a faulty medical device. People who are affected may have a legal right to seek compensation from the supplier or manufacturer and anyone else involved in the design, testing, production and marketing of the product.

The law in this area is complex and people are encouraged to seek legal assistance if they have been adversely affected by a therapeutic good. See the Queensland Law Handbook chapters ‘Consumers and Contracts’ and ‘Accidents and Injury’ for further information about the liability of manufacturers of defective products.