• Glauce Fleury

Canada discusses changes to the regulation of Natural Health Products


I treated health issues mostly with homeopathy from 2002 to 2012, when I moved to Canada. Before that, I knew about it as a health reporter, not as a patient. It's improved my quality of life, and reduced my expenses. My doctor at the time saved me from constant doses of painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

The new prescriptions improved my overall health. Instead of taking strong medicines all the time as a way to alleviate my conditions such as cramps, headaches and sore throats, I switched to natural products. They all worked well and had no side-effects. I still take homeopathic medicines for those.

Why am I telling you all this? Health Canada is currently consulting Canadians on the regulation of self-care products. The proposed changes could affect how Natural Health Products (NHPs) are regulated.

The proposal would alter the risk classification system of NHPs. For example, homeopathic and natural products would be placed under a “Lower Risk Self-Care Products” category. This means Health Canada:

  • Would no longer review, license or approve these products.

  • Would no longer review health claims (about diagnosis, treatment, prevention, mitigation or cure).

On their website, Health Canada says the institution is not trying to “limit or restrict” access to self-care products, but to “provide consumers with access to a wide range of choices” and “make the necessary information available to support informed decision-making.”

It’s not how the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) understands. Trade association dedicated to natural health and organic products, CHFA doesn’t approve the suggested changes. “This proposal is trying to fix a system that is not broken and will be a step backward instead of forward,” they state.

According to CHFA, the regulations already in place in Canada are among the best in the world. Currently, all NHPs are licensed by Health Canada before being sold. The companies selling them have already provided evidence to support any health claims.

To receive a Natural Product Number, these companies must provide data that supports the efficacy of a product — information currently assessed by Health Canada. Besides, to receive a licence, documents about the items below have to be submitted:

  • Medicinal ingredients

  • Non-medicinal ingredients

  • Source material

  • Dosage

  • Potency

  • Recommended use

So all these steps were already taken before the NHPs were placed on the shelves. CHFA explains that, if companies are now required to provide for NHPs the same level of evidence required for drugs, the prices will increase. “Claims based on previously accepted evidence may no longer be allowed and would be removed from the label,” the association states. This change will potentially limit the amount of information we receive. Photo credit (Ginkgo biloba): © Autan under Creative Commons via Flickr.