CHFA is proud to be the voice of the natural health industry. As CHFA President, I am proud to be our organization’s voice. From the latest updates on issues affecting our industry, to my personal insights on professional life, my blog, "The Long Story", is a collection of thoughts and ideas that will give you a unique perspective into our industry.
On November 8, 2016
Each year in November, we host NHP Week – a nationwide celebration of the access all Canadians have to safe, effective, and high-quality natural health products. We celebrate the freedom of choice that we as Canadians have to seek natural health products to help us maintain overall good health. In a country that’s as culturally diverse as Canada, it’s important to have a system that recognizes our beliefs and supports our right to choose.
The freedom to explore a rich variety of alternative remedies is the result of Canada’s regulatory system for natural health products, which is widely recognized as one of the best in the world. The existing Natural Health Products Regulations work to ensure that Canadians have access to a wide range of products that are safe, effective, and high-quality.
What does this mean? The Canadian approach to regulation is often referred to as a “pre-approval” system, which means that all NHPs must be reviewed by Health Canada before they are allowed to be legally sold in Canada. This means that each of the 100,000 products that are licensed for sale in Canada have been reviewed by Health Canada to ensure that they are safe, effective and high quality. By regulating the safety, efficacy and quality of these products, Health Canada can make a wide range of choices available to Canadians, including vitamin and mineral supplements, probiotics, and traditional medicines like Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal remedies and Ayurvedic Medicines.
This is why we celebrate NHP Week. As Canadians, we have the freedom to seek out natural alternatives, without having to worry about our safety. But soon, we may not have much left to celebrate.
Health Canada is proposing a new system that, if approved, will mark a significant step backwards in regulating these products. Instead of enhancing the existing system, which is a global gold standard, Health Canada wants to regulate some natural health products using the same rules as drugs. Most alarming, this proposal states that Health Canada will no longer review some of these products before they are available for purchase, and much of the information currently available on products that consumers rely on to make purchasing decisions, like how the product can be used will be removed because claims based on previously accepted evidence may no longer be allowed. This proposal appears to be based on a single consumer survey and just six weeks of consultation.
We’ve let Canadians know that these changes will limit their access to the products on which they rely, and in response, they have sent more than 30,000 letters to Members of Parliament all across the country, and tens of thousands of postcards to date.
More recently, Health Canada developed a myths and facts document, which was distributed to Members of Parliament and published online, aimed at providing more information about this proposal. But after we fact-checked it, we feel there is much left unsaid. Our concern is that the information shared does not clearly explain the impact the self-care proposal could have on Canadians who rely on natural health products. You can see our fact-checking here.
If you haven’t already sent a letter to your MP to tell them that you want to maintain access to your NHPs, I urge you to review this information for yourself and send a letter today.