Articles

Canada Bill C-51 – Regulating Natural Health Products

In Canada a new bill has been proposed, Bill C-51, that would make changes to the Food and Drug Act – the body of laws by which the Canadian federal government regulates food and health products in Canada. This is the equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US. It seems that Canada, like the US, is struggling to deal with a burgeoning industry of “natural health products” that are minimally regulated.

The new bill will increase government oversight of natural health products (NHP) for the purpose of ensuring higher quality standards for products and accuracy in the claims that are made for them. Proponents of the bill claim that it will serve to improve consumer protection. But the NHP industry is not happy with the increased oversight the bill would bring. Their hysterical reaction to the proposed bill is very revealing about the propaganda and deception used by the NHP industry.

This history of NHP regulation in Canada also reveals the two primary strategies by which the promoters of unscientific medicine and health products seek to advance their business. On the one hand they seek licensure, certification, and other formal recognition by the government in order to bolster their legitimacy with the public and also to keep competition at bay. When seeking such things they argue that licensure etc. will give the government the opportunity to regulate the industry and ensure quality control. They therefore take the position of consumer protection.


However – the last thing that the sellers of unscientific products and services want is real regulation. Their plan is always to put into place mechanisms for self-regulation. This way they get to have official recognition, they can erect barriers to keep out competition, but they are in charge of the standards. Therefore they are never held accountable to any external scientific or objective standard of safety or efficacy. Chiropractors, for example, only have to meet the standards established by chiropractic, even if this is completely divorced from scientific reality.

When the threat of genuine regulation is at hand, then the promoters of dubious health claims completely change their tune from consumer protection to health care freedom. Now they decry the evils of an oppressive government that would dare to tell its citizens what health products or services they can use.

Rather – rational regulations should always achieve a thoughtful balance between consumer protection and freedom. Also, certification and licensure should be used only when necessary and the foxes should never be put in charge of the hen house. Objective scientific standards must be used or otherwise the standards are pointless (except to limit competition).

If we look specifically at the history of NHP regulation in Canada we can see this switch from consumer protection to health care freedom in a very short period of time – from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Barry Green of the Ottawa Skeptics has pointed this out quite clearly. He wrote recently.

In the mid 90s, the NHP industry needed Health Canada to formally recognize NHPs through legislation in order to ensure safety and quality:

They wanted to know how consumers could be certain about such factors as purity, potency, and cleanliness of the products they purchase. They heard repeatedly that Canadians must be assured that “what’s on the label is in the bottle.”

Now, they seem to be saying that you should trust the industry to ensure safety and quality, and therefore why bother with regulations, inspections and those difficult-to-meet licensing requirements. I guess the NHP industry just wants to be treated like their products – big on claims but not on formal evidence.

Now that C-51 threatens to impose actual governmental oversight of NHP’s the industry appears to be in full panic/propaganda mode. An appeal has been repeated on dozens of websites, saying:

A new law being pushed in Canada by Big Pharma seeks to outlaw up to 60 percent of natural health products currently sold in Canada, even while criminalizing parents who give herbs or supplements to their children. The law, known as C-51, was introduced by the Canadian Minister of Health on April 8th, 2008, and it proposes sweeping changes to Canada’s Food and Drugs Act that could have devastating consequences on the health products industry.

Among the changes proposed by the bill are radical alterations to key terminology, including replacing the word “drug” with “therapeutic product” throughout the Act, thereby giving the Canadian government broad-reaching powers to regulate the sale of all herbs, vitamins, supplements and other items. With this single language change, anything that is “therapeutic” automatically falls under the Food and Drug Act. This would include bottled water, blueberries, dandelion greens and essentially all plant-derived substances.

The Act also changes the definition of the word “sell” to include anyone who gives such therapeutic products to someone else. So a mother giving an herb to her child, under the proposed new language, could be arrested for engaging in the sale of unregulated, unapproved “therapeutic substances.”

That’s right – the purpose of the law is to keep parents from giving blueberries and bottled water to their children.

The two specific changes that seem to have the purveyors of questionable health products worried include the changing of the word “drug” to “therapeutic product,” a term they previously endorsed. This means that herbs sold with health claims can be regulated as a product sold with health claims. It also means that herbs that are intended to be used as drugs – for their pharmacological effects – will be regulated just like drugs that are sold to be used as drugs – for their pharmacological effects.

There is some sense behind this change. It is reasonable to argue that the health regulatory agencies whose purpose is to protect health consumers should have the power to ensure the safety and efficacy of any product that is sold with specific health claims, regardless of its mechanism. I understand there are many subtleties to such regulation, and my purpose here is not to defend a particular formulation of any such regulation. Such laws need to consider many factors and balance many concerns – access, cost, safety, etc. Rather my point is to expose the blatant propaganda being used by the opponents of this bill and the hypocrisy it represents.

The second point of contention is expanding the concept of “sell.” Again, this is portrayed as an attempt to go after parents who are treating their children. Rather, it seems like it is crafted to avoid an obvious dodge of regulation – giving away health products and services to avoid regulation but then making a profit through donations or the selling of information, such as books and lectures. This change therefore is designed to close a loophole.

An interesting aspect of the propaganda against this law is the claim that it is being pushed by “Big Pharma,” the boogeyman of the “alternative” health industry. However, the pharmaceutical industry had nothing to gain from such regulation. In fact, pharmaceutical companies have jumped on the lucrative supplement and “natural” product bandwagon. They love having the ability to sell therapeutic products like herbs without any government regulation – no need to invest in costly research, and no one tying their hands in terms of the marketing claims they can make. What’s not to love. I would think that “Big Pharma” would be as much against C-51 as any company currently earning profits from unregulated health products.

But for propaganda purposes – Big Pharma is a convenient villain, even though they have nothing to do with this law.

It will be interesting to follow the fate of this law. Again – I am not saying that it is a perfect law or that it strikes the optimal balance between consumer protection and the free market. I am saying that any serious discussion on this topic should involve rational and objective definitions of what is a drug vs a nutritional supplement, and should incorporate reasonable attempts at protecting the public from harmful or fraudulent products, regardless of the manufacturer or the philosophical basis for the treatment.

But mostly this episode serves to expose the outrageous hypocrisy of the purveyors of unscientific or unproven treatments who are happy to be champions of consumer protection when it suits their needs, and then the next moment to decry consumer protection laws as fascist while transforming themselves into paragons of free-market virtue. Their ideological flexibility is impressive.

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements, Politics and Regulation

Leave a Comment (27) ↓

27 thoughts on “Canada Bill C-51 – Regulating Natural Health Products

  1. jonny_eh says:

    The second I saw the propaganda and venom spewing forth from the CAM crowd, I knew this would probably be a bill worth supporting.

    Is that a logical fallacy? Innocence by association?

    Regardless, from what Barry Green and you are saying, it sounds like there’s finally a health bill worth supporting.

    I encourage fellow Canadians to write to their MP in support of the bill.

    Although, I’ve heard one report of someone writing to their MP in support of the bill, and they received a response thanking them for their email in opposition to the bill. Some politicians only hear what they want to hear.

  2. Fifi says:

    Thank you very much for writing about this. The amount of propaganda claiming that this bill will ban organic food, stop people from growing medicinal herbs for themselves and actually prevent the growing, manufacturing or selling of herbs (or various supplements and vitamins) is not only silly but is only true if you believe that it’s impossible to actually be honest and do so.

    Considering the increasing evidence that mega-dosing on various vitamins may actually do more harm than good, the reported illnesses from supplements and herbal medicines containing toxic ingredients (and how many are manufactured in China, which seems to be having issues keeping toxic additives out of products of all kinds), and the ongoing mainstream and viral commercial campaigns and lobbying by Big Vita/Supplement, this legislation is long overdue.

  3. apteryx says:

    I have not heard of this bill. Is this an attempt to do away with Canada’s “traditional medicinals” category? Better regulation of quality sounds good, at least to a point. FDA has now imposed very strict, drug-style Good Manufacturing Practices for U.S. products. They acknowledged that the extensive multiple testing requirements, requirements to hire extra people to check the first person’s work, etc. will put many small businesses (who still have a couple of years to fully comply) out of business. I think that some of the best products you can get are those made lovingly in small batches by a family business, so to me this will be a real loss, although the broader market may hardly notice it.

    Sorry, when a bill says that “sell” includes “give,” this is ominous. Maybe they do not mean to criminalize treatment of one’s own children – yet – but do they mean to make it a criminal offense for me to give a friend or neighbor a bottle of my homemade tincture of echinacea? If I am not making any money off that, it is my friend’s concern if he chooses to accept and use it. Should I also be forbidden to give or share conventional foods, lest they be unsafe because I did not follow all corporate-appropriate GMPs in making lentil soup in my own kitchen? (A few years ago, a neighboring state actually tried to pass a food-safety law that would have banned church potlucks on just those grounds, so this is not an argumentum ad absurdum but, at least in the dreams of some professional busybodies, a real potential threat to our way of life.)

  4. Fifi says:

    apteryx – “Maybe they do not mean to criminalize treatment of one’s own children – yet – but do they mean to make it a criminal offense for me to give a friend or neighbor a bottle of my homemade tincture of echinacea?”

    That’s just silly fear mongering and shows a lack of familiarity with Canada. Particularly since Canadian law can’t prosecute what you do in the US. Comparing Canada to the US and your experience is creating a strawman out of non-indigenous materials. The police rarely even prosecute for small amounts of illegal drugs like pot in Canada (putting a whole new spin on potluck), so they’re hardly interested in you quietly and privately giving your neighbor a tincture. Trying to make a law that’s essentially about overseeing corporations into one of individual civil liberties is really quite funny coming from anyone who’s anti-EBM or pharmaceutical medicine. I mean, taken to it’s logical conclusion there should be no oversight over any manufacturer or corporation of any product because it potentially limits people’s freedom.

  5. Daniel Loxton says:

    Thanks to Steven for covering this important Canadian story.

    It’s interesting to note that almost all the grassroots opposition to C-51 simply parrots the outlandish arguments promoted at the glossy http://www.stopc51.com website. This site appears “© Health Canada Exposed,” an entity which coyly presents itself as some sort of consumer watchdog.

    Instead, it appears (to the best of my ability to determine; my requests for clarification have not been answered) that this is merely a front for The Synergy Group of Canada Inc, also called Truehope. Synergy / Truehope a shadowy for-profit online supplement company already embroiled in long legal battles with Health Canada regarding their drug “Truehope EMPowerplus.” (For an amusing report of the effort required by the Canadian authorities just to *locate* this outfit, check out http://www.circare.org/FOIA/hcati1_050056.pdf)

    EMPowerplus is a $70 per bottle mail order multivitamin (http://www.truehope.com/_empowerplus/empIngredients.asp) sold for the treatment of bipolar disorder and “multiple deficiencies in numerous areas of the body including the Central Nervous System.”

    Not surprisingly, Health Canada found suspect the marketing hype that an overpriced multivitamin was successful in “reducing/eliminating the symptoms of bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses in thousands of individuals.” In any event, Health Canada health advisories explained, “It is a drug…which has not been approved for sale in Canada.”

    Police raids and court battles followed when Truehope proved unwilling to comply with the existing regulations: “Truehope Nutritional Support Limited and Synergy, despite repeated requests by Health Canada, is still refusing to comply with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, and continues to sell its unapproved drug, Empowerplus, in Canada.”

    Why the fuss? “Our main concern,” Health Canada advisories warned, “deals with the unproven health claims being made about Empowerplus, and the recommendation that patients decrease the dose of, or eliminate altogether, medications prescribed by their doctors. This can result in serious adverse health consequences. The drug is being promoted and sold to treat serious disorders, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, autism, Tourette’s syndrome, fibromyalgia and obsessive compulsive disorder. Serious central nervous system disorders such as these should not be self-medicated or self-diagnosed.”
    (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/_2003/2003-07-15_e.html)

    Worse, Health Canada warned, there are reports of “serious adverse reactions associated with the use of EMPowerplus. Most of the adverse reactions relate to worsening of psychiatric symptoms in those patients with serious underlying mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder and depression. The worsening of these symptoms could be related to taking the product and discontinuing prescription medications or taking the product in conjunction with prescribed medications.”
    (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/_2007/2007_17_e.html)

    So, where does this leave the grassroots campaign against C-51? Not surprisingly, much of it appears to be a deliberately orchestrated astroturf activism.

    I brought this to the attention of one anti-C-51 activist in an email: “So far it appears likely that http://www.stopbillc51.com is associated with a for-profit supplement manufacturer. I notice too that most of the Facebook groups opposing C-51 both reference this probable industry source, and also feature supplement industry insiders as officers…that looks to me rather like [a petroleum company] rallying popular opposition to environmental regulations.”

    Strangely, he was unconcerned. “Even if it is pro-herbal suppliment funded [sic] , I really don’t see why I would not support it,” he replied, adding with unintentional irony, “it is very clear to me that Big Pharma is a for profit vehicle that is very interested in keeping their profit margins high at the cost of our health.”

    What to do?

    In any discussion of quackery and health fraud, the obvious question is, “Why doesn’t somebody *do* something to stop it?” Unfortunately, the C-51 case is illustrative of a general problem: it is all too easy for big-business alt med purveyors to manufacture a public outcry against politicians and law enforcement who try.

  6. apteryx says:

    “Particularly since Canadian law can’t prosecute what you do in the US.”

    Now you are just being silly, Fifi. Obviously I did not suggest that I personally, living in a U.S. state, could be prosecuted in Canada. The question is: “Supposing that I am a Canadian citizen or resident living under the jurisdiction of this law, will I retain the legal right to give my homemade herbal products to my associates?” I am unselfish enough to be concerned for the rights of Canadians even though I am not one. Dr. Novella suggested, with emotional rhetoric but without name-calling, that the only purpose of this “give=sell” clause was to put the kibosh on anyone who might try to “give away product” while taking in money for some other service in a way that made it clear there was really profit being made from the product. I would like to know whether or not the law in fact has any limiting language to that effect. I’d also like to know whether it could be used to prevent herbalists from compounding individualized medicines for their customers.

  7. Fifi says:

    apteryx – As it stands Canadians aren’t prosecuted for all kinds of minor transgressions of the law that would be similar to giving your neighbor some medicinal herbs from your garden – including possessing pot. If you’re not selling something you should be fine. However there’s a big difference between making/growing something and sharing it with your neighbor for free and marketing it. So are you really concerned about private use or commercial restriction? You seem to have shifted your concern.

    I actually think that it’s not a bad thing to have the “give” in there considering it would be very easy for commerces to pretend that they were “giving’ something away by hiding it in another charge. If it’s medicine it should be treated appropriately as medicine without the pretense that “natural=safe”.

  8. Fifi says:

    Daniel – Thank you for sharing your investigation into who’s behind the astroturf activism in Canada. It’s good to know who’s behind the propaganda.

  9. Daniel Loxton says:

    I am now able to confirm the Truehope / http://www.stopc51.com connection:

    It appears the Registrant and Administrative Contact for http://www.stopc51.com is one Ian Stewart of Raymond, Alberta:
    http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/results.jsp?domain=stopc51.com

    Ian Stewart, acccording to the Globe and Mail, is “the director of regulatory affairs for Truehope”(a company based in Raymond Alberta):
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080513.NATURAL13/TPStory/TPNational/Politics/

    This confirms what was already clear from other evidence (such as the fact that the contact phone number for http://www.stopc51.com rally organizing and the Truehope office number are the same): http://www.stopc51.com is an industry front, disingenuously created and promoted by a vested interest — one that has already been involved in extensive legal wrangling with Health Canada, and which has already been the subject of multiple health advisories.

    Cheeky.

  10. wertys says:

    Nice work Daniel…good luck getting C51 through you Canadians !

  11. TsuDhoNimh says:

    As I understand the law, if I sell “bottled water, blueberries, or dandelion greens” to be respectively drunk, baked into muffins, and served in a salad, I’m not going to be regulated. I’m selling food.

    If I declare the water is structured to balance your chakras for better sex, the blueberries will re-vitalize your quantum thermodynamic gap resonances, and the dandelion greens are essential part of the colon cleansing de-toxifying diet I am selling … then I get regulated.

    If you make it sound like a “drug”, pretend it has more-than-foodly powers to affect the human body, you deserve to have to prove it works, and that you can not only balance a chakra, but spot by some declared mechanism, in a blind test, who has drunk the structured water and whose chakras are still out of whack.

    How could any sane person object to this? Oh … sane? Ay, there’s the rub.

  12. Ex-drone says:

    It is important to realize that NHPs have been regulated in Canada under their own not-food/not-drug category since 2004. Bill C-51 is making some changes to the Food and Drugs Act to improve related enforcement provisions, but much of what the StopC51 crowd is up in arms about has already been illegal for FOUR YEARS. The sudden uproar over NHPs in Canada has more to do with the manufactured outcry identified by Daniel Loxton than with anything new in C-51, which is just the next legislative step in a regulatory framework that has been evolving over the last decade.

    For TsuDhoNimh, you are correct. If you sell food in Canada, then you are restricted from making Health Claims. (I’m sure there are some minor exceptions.) If you wish to make a Health Claim and your product is not a pharmaceutical, then you need to submit an NHP Product License Application (PLA) for your product. Along with the PLA, you have to provide evidence for your Health Claim. If you’re making a Non-traditional Use Claim (i.e., a scientific claim) such as “Helps in the function of the thyroid gland” for Iodine, then you need to cite sufficient scientific studies. If you’re making a Traditional Use Claim such as the types you were jokingly offering, then you have to show evidence of the product being used within a traditional medicine system for 50 consecutive years, often by citing an accepted pharmacopoeia. Then you can say, for example, “Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to balance chakras for improved sexual performance.” Sadly, yes, Health Canada endorses silly CAM claims as long as a culture has been consistently deluded for a long period of time, homeopathy included. Remember, the claim is not that “it successfully treats …,” it’s that “it is traditionally used to treat …”

    But again, these regulation have been in force since 2004, and even back then, Health Canada had the ability to enforce them. Bill C-51 just fixes some of the faulty language and closes some of the loopholes in order to improve Health Canada’s ability to carry out enforcement.

    Barry Green
    Ottawa Skeptics

  13. dragon says:

    First of all, there are plenty of nutritional supplements that are backed by scientific research that show “therapeutic” effects. You mean to tell me that the government has to protect us from such common vitamins and minerals like:

    B vitamins
    vitamin D
    calcium
    Echinacea
    vitamin C
    berry extracts
    fish oils ect…

    Your website is called Science Based Medicine….ok then take a look for yourself all of the compelling scientific literature on all I have mentioned and more….they do more good then harm. All of the prestigious journals will have more than enough evidence to conclude that nutritional supplements do indeed improve human health safely.

    Second, I have worked in the health food industry for over ten years. I have seen a lot of supplement companies come and go. I agree there are some fly by night companies that operate simply to make a buck without caring for human health, but those are few.

    As a Nutritionist I have used lots of nutritional supplements along with first and formost diet to increase the health of my clients, not once have I ever had a severe adverse reation to any of the supplements used. I understand that the last statement I made does not mean that everyone is not going to have the same reaction as a whole, but you will be hard pressed to find severe organ failure or death involving any individual taking supplements that were taken as directed without any pre-exsisting health condition.

    The health food industry is not trying to propagate anything. If one needs to relay a message a certain way to gain attention, so be it, the government propagates as well. It needs to be understood that questions will arise about some of the provisions proposed in this bill….those questions need to be answered, by lawyers that can read the bill properly so that a vast majority of the general population can understand the bill, instead of using double speak to explain rules to be implemented in Bill C-51.

    Do be so negative to “all” of the health food industry, we are just tying to help the public take better care of themselves by using what we have learned in school and to ease the burdon of the canadian health care system. We have a right to vote against this Bill c-51, I will be one of them

  14. dragon,

    No one said that there aren’t specific health benefits to specific nutritional supplements. That is a straw man. This is not just about protecting the public from harmful products but also about protecting them from false claims.

    The question is – what regulations should there be to govern what health claims can be made for different types of products and by whom. If the scientific evidence support a specific claim – then there are no worries.

    The only ones who should be worried about such a law are those who want to make false or unsubstantiated health claims for their products.

  15. catsmeow says:

    Wow, fantastic to read a perspective on this that isn’t all whacked out.

    I work for Canada’s largest manufacturer/distributor of natural supplements in Canada and we don’t see Bill C-51 and the “devil.” There are simply too many companies out there that are trying to prey on people’s lack of knowledge and make a quick buck off of them.

    We don’t see how ensuring a product is what it says, is backed up by research and is safe is a problem? You can’t have it both ways. Claim a product does all these therapeutic things then scoff when someone wants to regulate it and ensure there is truth behind the claims.

    It is embarassing to see how the industry has responded to this. I’ve no doubt it began with prompting and inaccurate information coming from companies that are non compliant to the newer NHPD regulations and bawking because just now we are starting to see products being rejected/issued NHP numbers. The “marketing” companies vs. research-based ones have a lot of work to do in regards to being compliant if they want to survive and they see this Bill as a way to make the government the enemy instead of their shoddy manufacturing and misleading label claims.

  16. Fifi says:

    catsmeow – Which company do you work for? (I could do the research to find out and understand if you don’t feel you can identify the company for some reason.) Would the company be willing to put out a press release supporting the bill?

  17. Daniel Loxton says:

    My article about Truehope and C-51 in eSkeptic:

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/08-05-28.html

  18. tdot says:

    This bill confuses the heck out of me. At first I was completely opposed to it…. but after doing alot of research I am just confused. I will say this though…. if ALL the bill does is increase the safety of health supplements by better testing and regulation… then I am all for it!! But if it in any way limits my ability to just go to the store and buy the supplement that I want, then I say stop the bill from going through!!! I dont want to be treated like a child… I should have the right to chose what kind of treatment I want to use to take care of my health. I dont want to have to go to the doctor to ask for a bottle of vitamin D or fish oil pills or whatever! That would just make me angry. Anyway…. that’s my two cents…..

  19. JosephB says:

    Whether or not any of you are posting as an owner of a natural supplements business, or a board member of a pharmaceutical company, or the pope himself, is completely irrelevant IMO and serves only to illustrate your willingness to use empty rhetoric to prove a point.

    Whether the “anti-Bill-C51 lobby” are using propaganda to make their point is also completely irrelevant. All propaganda is “information, ideas, or rumours deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.” (Dictionary.com) Objecting to a law to be passed is a given right under the Canadian Carter of Rights and Freedoms, and one can hardly object to something or be for something without using propaganda, so to accuse one side of using propaganda to further their point is like calling the kettle black. Like duh, how else would they do it?

    And please, let’s not blind the issue with such loaded “anti-rhetoric” terms such as “Big Vita”: we all know that the natural supplements industry is several times smaller than the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry by several orders of magnitude, so if any side can be accused of propaganda in the interests of profits, it is the large biotech and pharma corporations. But this too is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. Both industries can be said to have a profit motive, and any organization who is selling product (and making a profit) which claims benevolence and goodwill as their sole motivator is deluding themselves and others.

    And for the record, I agree in principle that if you are going to make a medical claim of any kind for a supplement you should go through a regulatory body for testing before such labelling can be considered legal. But it is in the implementation of this regulation that natural medical practitioners and the health supplements industry generally object. Each of these industries’ products approach disease and health differently, and this necessitates completely different regulatory models with separate testing protocols.

    Pharmacological substances for the most part are synthetic derivatives of natural compounds or are wholly man-made compounds, and as many many studies have shown, can have very severe side effects resulting from incorrect dosage and drug interactions, some far worse than the original condition, including death. This is not mentioned as an indictment of such an approach, but as an indication of the seriousness of “misuse.” Therefore such compounds must of necessity be subjected to an extremely stringent scrutiny, costing in the millions of dollars. This as it turns out is possible because these man-made substances are patentable, thus generating profits justifying such testing procedures.

    Naturally derived, naturaceutical, homoeopathic and herbal substances, on the other hand, are found to have far less adverse side effects several orders of magnitude less than synthetic substances. Whether or why this is so is beyond the current scope of this post, but there are many unbiased, double-blind, empirically verifiable and live clinical studies to amply support this postulation.

    Now, given that these natural substances are for the most part so safe as to have an almost zero death rate from misuse, and given that naturally derived substances are unpatentable and “in the public domain” (for now), profit amounts and margins are far lower for naturaceuticals in comparison to pharmaceuticals. Therefore funding for the sort of protocols used by the pharmaceutical industry is not only excessively expensive, but unnecessary.

    I am not suggesting the elimination of scientific trials, but for applying a different methodology for naturaceuticals that often more than proves the safety of a given substance. Now a study which proves if its claims are true is another matter, and any naturaceutical which wishes to make medical claims should go through double blind trials. But again, the protocols should be different, though not any less scientific. Because of the general absence of life-thretening side effects with orally administered natural treatments, live human trials can occur, and often do, much earlier in the process than any pharmaceutical ever could. Many natural practitioners (many of whom I have personally met) have amassed literally “mountains” of data from scientifically-verified trials done through their practise in support of certain therapies (many of whom are just as educated and medically trained in scientific procedure as an allopathic doctor). But this data often never ever surfaces in the public domain because there is a real and present fear by such practitioners of prosecution because the data was not obtained in accordance with the same protocols as pharmaceutical substances. Nevermind that some truly “miraculous” advances in medicine have occurred through such “informal” trials and a plethora of patients have had their illnesses successfully treated. It is not necessarily an unscientific approach, though it is often labelled as such because of lay people’s ability to self-diagnose without life-threatening side effects. It is simply a different approach to medicine.

    What makes this debate so polarized is the overwhelming lobbying budgets by pharmaceutical corporations which completely obfuscates the fact that these two industries necessitate completely different regulatory approaches if the process is to be fair. But the reality of our present medical system is that the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry is not interested in sharing the market with an alternative approach to medicine, no matter how successful. There are simply too many dollars in profits at stake, irrespective of the individual’s choice in health care and the lives it adversely affects. The only thing one needs to do to make it very very difficult for the holistic medical industry to survive is to bury them in millions of dollars of regulatory testing and red tape, irrespective of whether those particular protocols actually work for that type of medicine.

    Whether Mr. Stewart of Truehope Inc. is behind the “propaganda” to thwart such a “well-meaning bill” as some claim is besides the point. If his attempts at drumming up a lobby to fight the bill constitute a conflict of interest that is so self-serving as to nullify the body of his arguments, even if no one knew of his involvement in StopC51.com, do you honestly think all those working professionals and business owners would bother putting their names behind this petition, rather than ignoring his call for action as irrelevant? The truth of matter is that Mr. Stewart’s rallying cry did not all of a sudden appear out of a vacuum on the political landscape: the natural supplements industry and holistic practitioners the world over have been fighting their respective governments for decades in an effort to halt the pharmaceutical industry’s attempts to eliminate alternative medicine. The StopC51.com website is merely a rallying point in a long line of struggle. The only thing that StopC51.com can be accused of is having a little too much rhetoric and not enough information on the history of this struggle. So Mr. Stewart needs a little more “usability” for his site, as we say in the web dev industry, a little more transparency and references to back up his arguments to satisfy sceptics new to this debate, who can’t be bothered to actually read the proposed bill.

    You want of talk of conflict of interest? How about the fact that our current health minister Mr Tony Clement, responsible for introducing this bill, has a significant share in a pharmaceutical company (owns 25% in Prudential Chem Inc.). Considering the contents of the bill, I would consider this downright suspicious.

    But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. If it were just the expensive regulatory procedures alone, which by themselves are enough to cry foul, I doubt the issue would receive as much attention as it has.

    The real issue at hand is this: in the same bill that attempts to over-regulate and criminalize an industry to the point of strangulation, we have a subsection of that bill that is in direct contravention and violation of several sections of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Don’t you think that is the slightest bit suspicious? Why put them in that same bill? Why give a regulation body powers that are usually reserved for federal policing agencies such as CSIS, powers you would think normally to be used in extreme cases of criminal activity that could seriously affect the safety of its citizenry?

    I agree that if a company, such as the illustrious Kevin Trudeau, or a pharmaceutical company, or even Grandma with a cottage industry selling tinctures, makes certain medical claims for a substance, be it naturaceutical or pharmaceutical, without certain testing procedures approved by a fair and equitable regulatory body (which we currently do not have), then the due process of law must be brought to bear. But search-and-seizure powers of the kind proposed in this bill do not show evidence of the due process of law, it shows evidence of a “shoot first ask questions later” mentality used by police-state regimes.

    It would be as if (hypothetically) criminality and search and seizure rules governing the control of illegal uses of military-grade explosive devices were applied to auto repair parts. It’s overkill, and it’s completely unconstitutional. Do we forget so easily how certain prominent fascists in history came to power? By the gradual implementation of laws stripping the citizenry of its rights and freedoms, “for our own good.” Sure, the probability that grandma drying out herbs from her garden and giving them to her children to cure their warts would provoke search, seizure and imprisonment is remote, but the important thing to remember here is that THIS WOULD ACTUALLY BE LEGAL BY LAW IF IT DID HAPPEN!! And not only that, but if a herb is judged as unsafe and banned, such as say, ecchinacea, grandma drying herbs from her garden WOULD ACTUALLY BE BREAKING THE LAW under this new legislation. How insane is that?

    Far more likely a scenario (hypothetically) is that our health minister, who owns shares in a large pharmaceutical company, or one of his close friends, hears of a new drug about to make it to market that will make millions. Problem is, there’s this naturaceutical substance which is widely in use which could cut into those profits. All that has to be done to silence the competition is to declare a certain heretofore “untested” natural substance as unsafe, and of course the naturaceutical company in question will need to blow all their current and future profits on testing, or withdraw the product. If they resist, their offices will be raided, their accounts frozen and confiscated, or worse. No more competition. Nice and simple.

    Or just as likely, a long list of substances currently in use will be declared banned until proper testing is done, and when several key individuals and small companies resist — which they will as this would instantly put them out of business — a massive, nation-wide raid will occur, tying up the courts for years and effectively destroying the naturaceutical industry in Canada. This is the bill’s “final solution” that many fear will come of such sweeping powers. So again, no more competition for the pharmaceutical industry. And best of all, many people will believe that this was in their best interest! *sarcasm*

    And you wonder why people are concerned.

  20. Ex-drone says:

    Health Canada has created a website that debunks the scare mongering of groups like the StopC51 movement:

    http://www.canadiensensante.gc.ca/pr-rp/billC-51_e.html

    Despite Truehope’s claims, the Canadian government is not intent on eliminating the NHP industry and is not about to send SWAT teams to raid grandma’s house because she is brewing up a pot of herbal tea. Bill C-51 is just implementing enhanced regulatory and enforcement measures to ensure the safety and quality of drugs, NHPs, food and cosmetics. Truehope may find it an abuse of authority for the government to inspect, seize and recall tampered, unsafe and counterfeit products, but rational people do not.

  21. Fifi says:

    Another side of the debate and issues regarding C51 as a means to allow poorly tested pharmaceuticals quick approval so they can be fast tracked into the public marketplace.

    http://www.canadians.org/action/2008/22-May-08.html

    It’s pretty clear that selling pills – no matter if it’s big pharma or big vita – is a profitable business that is much more profitable when there are fewer regulations to protect consumers (as is the case in almost all businesses). MLM schemes are *not* the equivalent of a small business and very few of the ‘natural’ supplements and products I see sold – including in health food stores – are made by mom and pop businesses (though obviously that’s part of many brands’ marketing).

    Anyway, clearly a complex issue and the astroturf propaganda certainly has muddied the waters and made it into a highly emotional issue for lots of people and gotten in the way of having a calm conversation about what the facts and real life implications actually are both socially and personally.

  22. Ex-drone says:

    FWIW, our detailed analysis of NHPs and Bill C-51:

    http://www.ottawaskeptics.org/topics/alternative-medicine/48-alt-med/126-natural-health-products-nhps-and-bill-c-51

    Barry Green
    Ottawa Skeptics

  23. Daniel Loxton says:

    Another tidbit. One common response to the awkward fact that a NHP manufacturer intentionally created the backlash against C-51 has been that the leal review speaks for itself. That sentiment is, for example, expressed succinctly in this thread at a Green Party of Canada message board (http://www.greenparty.ca/en/node/4573):

    “Even if one NPO natural foods company has assisted in the formation of the grassroots movement, I hope you don’t mean to suggest that the legal analysis of it’s implications by lawyer Shawn Buckley, president of NHPPA, is weak, spurious, or exaggerated. http://www.stopc51.com/c51/legal_review.pdf

    I was just doing chores when it suddenly occurred to me to check something: “I bet,” I thought tiredly, “that Buckley has some tie to Truehope.”

    Sure enough, it seems he either is or was once Truehope’s lawyer: “http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story/2006/03/13/ed-medication20060313.html”

    I’d be very interested to know what the relationship is today. Does Synergy / Truehope literally pay Buckley?

  24. teekay1959 says:

    What does it matter if Buckley is associated with Truehope? What does it matter if the stopc51 website is run by Truehope? Give me direct corporate lobbying to the Canadian public over back door corporate lobbying to politicians any day (as is done by the pharmaceuticals.) Mr. Loxton urges his readers to obtain accurate information and yet he conveniently fails to inform his readers WHY Truehope was acquitted. The Honourable Judge G.M. Meagher of The Provincial Court of Alberta wrote in his decision of the case dated July 28, 2006: “The evidence presented by the Defendants establishes that the Defendants believed that the persons in the Truehope program were in imminent peril or danger if they no longer had access to the supplement or to the Truehope program. The Court finds
    that this was a reasonably held belief.” Judge Meagher further wrote, “Dr. Charles Popper, a psychiatrist at Harvard University, who also teaches psychiatry to other psychiatrists, testified that when treatment was withdrawn the symptoms returned. Dr. Popper has most impressive qualifications. Although he was initially extremely skeptical with regards to the supplement, by the time of trial approximately 100 to 150 of his patients were using the supplement. . Dr. Popper’s expert evidence was
    that if the supplement became unavailable, symptoms associated with depression and bi-polar disorder, which would include aggressive behaviour, assaults, hospitalizations and suicides, would return.” In addition, Judge Meagher wrote, “The evidence presented by the Defendants was credible and compelling with regards to imminent peril or danger” (if
    EMpowerPlus was removed from the market). Why does Health Canada turn a blind eye to the compelling evidence? Why does Health Canada fire its own scientists when those scientists refuse to approve drugs they have found to be unsafe? Dr. Shiv Chopra is a case in point. Just how important or unimportant is the health of Canadians to Health Canada?

Comments are closed.