by Adam Sealey
Health Canada is conducting an unnecessary war on natural health products (NHPs). It states 40 percent of Canadians have expressed “concern or mistrust” for NHPs, but here’s the clincher. Its list of natural health products includes Red Bull, Sudafed, Nicorette gum and Cover Girl makeup. How can these products be called natural health products? And is it any wonder the public is concerned about the situation, as evidenced by outcry to limit the sale and potency of highly cafinated synthetic energy drinks, for example? This is how Health Canada is using “problem-reaction-solution” to justify denying the approval of legitimate NHPs for sale in Canada. It has created the problem by allowing these products, which are anything but totally safe or natural, to taint the public perception of natural health products that are safe and natural.
As a person who depends on safe and effective NHPs for relief of chronic aches and pains from sports injuries and to boost my immunity and health, I am deeply concerned about the direction Health Canada is taking with its apparent systematic dismantling of the Canadian Natural Health industry.
As noted in the report entitled Why the Natural Health Product Regulations Should be Suspended and Revised, prepared for Canadian Members of Parliament by Citizens for Choice in Health Care, “Health Canada denies that the industry is being downsized. But as of their quarterly report, ending June 30, 2011, fully 45 percent (23,818) of the product licence applications submitted since 2004 have been unsuccessful. In 2004, Canadians had over 70,000 different NHPs to choose from. As of June 30, 2011… only 29, 011 different products had been licensed. The agency repeatedly states their foremost consideration for the regulations is consumer safety. However, the products being eliminated for failing to prove safety have often been sold for decades… without problems. Health Canada cannot justify the rigours, or the outcomes of the current reulations based on safety concerns.”
Last month, as a representative of Common Ground magazine, I attended the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) Expo East in Toronto. The theme of our October issue was “Protect Natural Health Products: Join the Team Win Back our Health Freedom.” I, along with two other Common Ground representatives, promoted our October issue to various delegates and I attended regulatory affairs meetings regarding the state of the Natural Health Product Regulations and their ongoing corrosive effect on the industry.
|L to R: Common Ground sales representatives Hartley Berg, Adam Sealey and Phil Watson at CHFA Expo East in October.|
I spoke to Mr. Lawless, a Health Canada representative, about Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD). I asked him how his agency justifies removing known, safe natural products from the market without any scientific proof they are a danger to human health. He replied that Health Canada takes a “risk based approach” to approving drugs (and NHPs since 2004). In other words, does the benefit outweigh the risk when taking a particular drug or NHP? Looking back, I see this “risk based approach” failed to save people from the fatal side effects of Vioxx, a drug unleashed on a public that looks to Health Canada to protect them from toxic or dangerous drugs.
Since 2004, when natural health products were moved out of the Foods category and began to be regulated as a subset of Drugs, they have been presumed to be dangerous until proven safe. Health Canada betrayed the intentions of the Canadian public, the Standing Committee on Health that advised Parliament with 53 recommendations, and, ultimately, Parliament. It was a betrayal because the number one recommendation accepted by Parliament, was: “there shall be legislative reform” [i.e. changes made to the Food and Drugs Act]… to provide a category for NHPs that was distinct from either Foods or Drugs, and which recognized their low risk nature.” But that never happened. Instead, Health Canada took advantage of loopholes in the wording of the report and created a separate directorate and a new set of regulations for NHPs, which treated them as a subset of Drugs. How is bromelain extract from pineapple a drug? How is Echinacea or Golden Rod extract a drug?
The central problem with Health Canada is the agency enforces the same legislation that it creates while being in relationship with some of the wealthiest pharmaceutical corporations on the planet. This is a huge conflict of interest.
Since similar NHPD type regulations came into enforcement in the European Union, in the majority of countries, people can’t even get vitamin C without a doctor’s prescription; if they can, they can’t purchase more than 100mg potency. And many herbs used traditionally in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine are systematically being removed from use unless they are prescribed by mostly western trained doctors.
Unless we take decisive action now and support organizations like Natural Health Freedom Canada, (naturalhealthfreedomcanada.com) and the The Natural Health Products Protection Association (nhppa.org), what has happened in Europe will be our reality before we know it. Canada will be next unless we “Occupy Health Canada” and our elected representatives and demand freedom to choose natural health products without government interference. We do not consent to their "protection"!
We, as Canadians, have a responsibility to the rest of the world to preserve our freedom of choice as it relates to health. If Health Canada is allowed to continue with its war on safe and effective natural health products, freedom in the US and Mexico will be next to disappear owing to our deep integration of economic, environmental, health and many other regulations and laws under agreements like the Security & Prosperity Partnership (spin-speak for North American Union) recently signed by our countries.
All over Canada, people are finally taking to the streets with the Occupy movement and other actions and demanding a return to a society where our Charter rights to “Life, Liberty and Security” are once again respected by our governments. Fortunately, we have courageous and passionate people working to uphold our health freedoms and to halt Health Canada’s unreasonable regulations – people like Shawn Buckley of the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA), Marilyn Nelson of Natural Health Freedom Canada, the folks at National Health Federation of Canada, and John Biggs of Citizens for Choice in Natural Health Care.
Big Pharma pays a lot of money to lobbyists who convince elected representatives – yes, the ones you vote for – to pass laws that make it easy for Health Canada to rush new blockbuster drugs to market. Meanwhile, since 2004 when our government moved the regulation of NHPs under a subset of drugs, Health Canada continues to deny the approval of safe and effective NHPs, in many cases when there is absolutely no evidence they are unsafe or ineffective. By contrast, pharmaceuticals are definitely unsafe – they are now the number one killer in the US ahead of even auto accidents.
NHPs are being put through the NHPD wringer, which demands that manufacturers “prove” their effectiveness when millions of people know they are effective and safe. But Health Canada marches on with its mission to “protect the health and safety of Canadians.” And protect them from what? From digestive enzymes from pineapple? Yes, Health Canada is going after many digestive enzymes as well as things like probiotics and oil of oregano. It’s interesting to note the first product in Canada to receive a Natural Product Number (NPN) was Red Bull, an energy drink loaded with caffeine.
In early October, our Ministry of Health responded to public pressure about the dangers of incredibly high caffeine energy drinks that have been responsible for injuries and, in some cases, death. “One of the best things about Canada is that we have choices. But to make informed choices, we as parents and Canadians need to have useful information… we are giving Canadians the tools and the information they need to make their own choices, for themselves, and for their families,” said Chris Alexander, Member of Parliament for Ajax-Pickering.
It’s very comforting to know our elected representatives feel we should be able to make our own decisions when it comes to what we put in our bodies. It would be nice if this sentiment were true and applied to natural health products as well.
Health Canada promised to ensure that, within 18 months, all energy drinks would contain a maximum of 180mg of caffeine as well as regulate them as “foods” rather than “natural health products.” Foods? Natural health products? How could synthetic energy drinks be considered either? Part of the reason is the word “natural” is not defined legally. It can be used freely in labeling in Canada and does not legally imply a product is either safe or natural as you and I assume those words to mean.
A Canadian producer of a very popular and time-tested, multi-ingredient joint nourishing formula has recently been told by the NHPD it must take its product off the market and reformulate it because it contains pineapple enzyme that may be unsafe – even though it has been on the market for more than 10 years. Along with other products made by this innovative Canadian company, the removal of their best sellers from the market, reformulation and lost sales expenses will likely put them out of business, harming the family that depends on that business, throwing their employees out of work, weakening the economy while harming consumers who depend on their safe and effective natural health products. How does this square with Health Canada’s mandate “protecting the health & safety of Canadians”?
We are only free to make our own decisions if we take back our power by calling, writing, faxing or visiting our elected member of Parliament to demand the Natural Health Product Regulations be suspended, pending review by the Standing Committee on Health and revision by an appropriate body, but obviously not one in bed with Big Pharma’s interests. Demand that NHPs be given their own unique third category as outlined in the “Charter of Health Freedom” at www.nhppa.org where they are presumed safe until proven unsafe.
Join and financially support your health freedom organizations today. They are poised to take immediate steps to make a real difference in bringing about a positive change in our health freedoms and to protect the natural health industry from unwarranted attack from Health Canada.
They need your help.
Please support Natural Health Freedom Canada, www.naturalhealthfreedomcanada.com or call 1-905-509-5885, the National Health Federation, thenhf.com, and the Natural Health Products Protection Association, nhppa.org, 250-377-4930.
Adam Sealey is a health freedom activist who has been involved in campaigns to ensure continued increased access to natural health products and the survival of the natural health products industry.