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 June 26, 2017
As a follow-up to the CBC coverage that appeared today in response to the Canadian Medical Association Journal editorial by Matthew Stanbrook, MD, and his view that natural health products (NHPs) should be sold separately from drugs:
Canadian consumers should continue to have the opportunity to make informed choices, which means choosing NHPs as a way of safely managing their health. Instead of overhauling a system that is working, and oversimplifying the NHP debate, let’s focus on areas that could be updated, such as including information on the label so Canadians know the safety and efficacy data Health Canada reviewed in order to license the product.
The idea of helping Canadians better understand this system and the difference between a truly natural product and a drug is laudable. Consumers need to know that NHPs are not drugs and should therefore be regulated differently. This only makes sense.
The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) has been participating in Health Canada’s public consultations related to modernizing the regulation of self-care products. It is important to recognize that all NHPs sold in Canada, which includes vitamin and mineral supplements, herbal remedies, traditional medicines, probiotics and enzymes, are reviewed and approved by Health Canada for safety, efficacy and quality based on the risk-benefit profile of the product.
Currently, Canada is a global leader in the regulation of NHPs. These regulations take into account the unique properties and low-risk nature of these products, ensuring that Canadians have ready access to NHPs that are safe, effective and of high quality, while respecting freedom of choice and allowing for Canadians to manage their well-being as opposed to simply seeking a quick fix.
When it comes to evidence to support the claims on a product, there are different types of appropriate support that should be considered acceptable depending on the product and claim being made. Health Canada considers a range of supporting evidence, from traditional sources indicating the product’s history of safe use to advanced-level scientific research.
The amount and type of evidence that is required to support a product’s use is dependent on the level of risk posed by the product and the claims being made. Canadians can identify licensed natural health products by looking for the eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN).
As NHPs are traditionally and generally recognized as lower-risk, it is not reasonable to require the same level of testing as a drug that has been developed in a lab for a product that comes from nature and has been used safely and effectively for thousands of years.
In regards to product recalls, CHFA is open to exploring ways to modernize aspects of the current NHP regulations, including the ability for the Minister of Health to recall products. That said, although Health Canada does not currently have the legal power to recall products, the Minister can issue a stop sale order. Inspectors have the right to seize product without a writ and without proving the product is non-compliant. The Minister can also issue a letter requesting additional safety information, and if the information is not satisfactory, the Minister can suspend or cancel a licence.
Above all else, CHFA believes that the 79 per cent of Canadians who rely on natural health products should continue to have access to these products.