Government, Pharmaceuticals, and Natural Health Products

Government, Pharmaceuticals, and Natural Health Products

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apothecary pop-up clinicWhile I’ve been busy building an apothecary pop-up clinic inside a steamer trunk we restored from next-thing-to-garbage, troubling clouds have been darkening on the Canadian healthcare horizon, particularly over the mountains of governmental oversight!

On the one hand, we have natural health product regulations that many natural health product manufacturers either can’t live up to, or have been blindsided by:

“Health Canada defines natural health products as “naturally occurring substances that are used to restore or maintain good health.” Also called “alternative” or “complimentary” medicines, they can come in the form of tablets, capsules, tinctures, solutions, creams, ointments and drops.

Examples of natural health products include vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic and traditional medicines, and probiotics.”

“Since 2014, hospitals have been required to report adverse health reactions associated with any pharmaceuticals after the federal government passed Vanessa’s Law.

At the time, natural health products were excluded from these reporting requirements. But these new regulations proposed under Bill C-47 would bring natural health products into the same framework as Vanessa’s Law.

The Canadian Health Food Association, which represents the natural health products industry, says it feels blindsided by the proposed regulations, arguing that the proposals haven’t been properly studied or debated, instead being tucked into an omnibus budget bill.”
What to know about natural health products as Canada ponders new regulations


“Putting natural health products under that framework would require hospitals to report on any unintended consequences associated with them, so that Health Canada can recall them or order fixes if necessary.

The provisions had been discussed before, said Aaron Skelton, president of the Canadian Health Food Association. But “there was nothing that would have indicated to industry that it was imminent,” he said.

“The industry and the association were both caught off guard when we saw that included in the budget.””
Industry blindsided by federal government’s plan to track ill effects of natural health products

nasal sprayThen we have the other side of Health Canada and the Government’s mouth seemingly saying this:

“The pharmaceutical industry is simply not amenable to any measure that would further constrain its ability to sell patented medicines in Canada at free market prices,” said the Memorandum To The Minister Of Health. The document (dated December 8, 2021) was written by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB).

Canadians pay the third highest pharmaceutical drug prices in the world, yet the Liberals are using their power to defend the interests of big pharma, an NPD news release read. It furthered:

“On Thursday morning, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and NDP health critic, Don Davies, called on the Liberals to stop protecting the profits of big pharma and cut the price of patented medications.

Through ATIP, New Democrats obtained a memo from the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) acting chair to [Federal Health] Minister Duclos in December 2021. The memo warned the minister that, despite 110 hours of consultation with big pharma, the industry was not engaging constructively and would oppose any reform put forward to lower drug prices for Canadians and reduce big pharma’s profits.”

Now add the issue of informed consent, and the apparent bold-anti-regulating of the same drug system that is pushing the natural health product debacle!

“Health Canada is proposing regulatory changes to pharmaceutical product approvals under the guidance of Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, former Minister of Industry with a background in economics.

The regulations are being made under the Food and Drugs Act Agile Licensing. More broadly, this licensing will expedite the drug approval process that some criticize as prioritizing industry over the health and safety of Canadians.”

Um, there’s that word “agile” again, now applied to drug licensing.

““They list products such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and gene editing as examples of therapeutic products that will be included under these advanced regulatory products,” explains Natsheh.

A key component of this is what Natsheh refers to as a back-door pathway; changes that were brought forward by Duclos when he was the Minister of Industry in 2019, which allowed products to be put on the market without first proving safety or efficacy.

“This new pathway allows for novel therapeutic products which have unknown side effects and implications to bypass that traditional route and access the public as long as the Minister of Health and Health Canada has evidence to support the conclusion that the associated benefits of the products outweigh the risk.””

Ummmm. . . what is the government trying to do with natural health products again???

“This legislation also pertains to veterinary products which means that novel products have the potential to enter the food supply.

Natsheh says the uncertainties are concerning, given that they could manifest into harms.

And how will potential harms be managed?

The “quest for economic gain should not compromise our health regulations which are a safety net for the Canadian public against harms from therapeutic products,” says Natsheh.

“They did everything [over the last three years] out of an abundance of caution to keep us safe but now it seems like they’re introducing these regulations which I consider to be de-regulations; they are pulling apart the very essence of our safety net to protect the Canadian public.””
Informed consent a thing of the past if changes to Health Canada’s drug regulatory framework proceed

We can’t have it both ways! If they’re going to essentially de-regulate the pharmaceutical industry, they should get their paws off the natural health world too!!!

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