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On June 23, 2023, the Canadian government passed a piece of legislation called Bill C-47, that will significantly change the regulation of natural health products, and dramatically impact your ability to access vitamins, nutritional supplements, minerals, herbs, and homeopathic remedies. It amends the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) to include Natural Health Products (NHPs). This means that existing provisions of the FDA, as described above, now apply equally to natural health products.
Here are some of the key issues that are addressed in the new regulatory guidelines:
- Health Canada is implementing stricter regulations that will significantly impact consumer choice and restrict access to health products and supplements.
- Health Canada is introducing new fees on natural health products, which will place a considerable financial strain on NHP businesses. This will lead to significant price hikes for consumers or even force many small to medium-sized companies out of business.
- Increased Health Canada censorship will prevent truthful advertising by both manufacturers and natural health stores.
Is more regulation better for Canadians?
Regulation comes at the cost of freedom of choice, so it is important to always strike the right balance that makes the most sense for Canadians. The government’s position is these changes are needed to increase the safety and effectiveness of NHPs, to protect Canadians.
This poses questions that need to be answered, such as:
- Should they be regulated in the same way as pharmaceuticals?
- Are natural health products safe for us?
- Are they risky to begin with? If yes, what is the risk?
- And what is the comparative risk relative to other behaviours and activities – does the added protection warrant the loss of freedom of choice and access to supplements for Canadians?
Would you be surprised to learn then, that you’re 14 times more likely to be struck by lightning, 428 times more likely to die from bicycling, and 714 times more likely to die in a school bus accident than to die from a natural health product? This is how safe natural health products have been over many years. It’s difficult to rationalize why we need so many new burdensome regulations for an industry that already poses very little risk to Canadians. Here’s a chart that shows relative risks to one’s health.
At the very top of the chart, you see things like preventable medical injury, preventable adverse drug reactions and acute hospital situations. You see broad spectrum, adverse drug reactions for all adverse effects of pharmaceutical drugs all in the USA. So it makes sense that the chemical pharmaceutical drug industry would have significant regulations on it due to the risk involved. By contrast, natural health products can be found at the very bottom of this chart, second from the bottom, with a rating of 0.014, just above dying from a meteorite at 0.000006.
Why haven’t I heard about this?
They’ve tried to restrict access to natural health products before. In 2008, it was called Bill C 51 and was very similar. It was a standalone bill, so it had to be presented before it was passed. And the Canadian public had a chance to express their wishes and succeeded in preventing the bill from being passed. This time, rather than doing it as a standalone bill, they added it as sections 500 to 504 of Bill C 47, the Budget Bill, which hisorically gets passed very quickly and doesn’t go through the same vetting process. Now it’s been passed as a law. So now, we’re need to get sections 500 to 504 repealed.
What can I do now?
A man named Shawn Buckley, an Albertan lawyer and founder the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPa.org), is filing a suit against the Canadian government regarding these new regulations. The good news is that Canadians have already, through letters and postcards to their MPs, brought this issue for discussion on the floor of the House of Commons. There’s still plenty of work to be done, so we can’t stop applying the pressure yet.
Here are the key actions you can take to turn the tide for Canadian healthcare:
- Get Educated – Sign up for the website’s newsletter to stay on top of the information as it develops.
- Communicate with your MP
- Gather signatures for petitioning the government
- Support local stores that sell NHPs.
- Support practitioners that use NHPs.
- Support NHPPA – make a one time, or better yet, monthly donations so that the NHPPA is able to do its work without worrying about the finances
As Canadians, we deserve better and together we can make a difference by taking action into making our healthcare system more inclusive and more expansive for all Canadians. Every Canadian deserves to have the very best options available so that each and everyone of us is empowered and enabled to make the best individual choices for our optimum health and well-being.