Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In reply...

Dear Ex-drone,
I think it's interesting that up to this point, the only people reading my blog were friends, clients and well-wishers, but the second I post something that dares to challenge the NHP regulations I have comments from someone I don't know. Your post popped up about three hours after my original one - it's amazing to think that you were casually surfing the net without any agenda and just happened upon my little article!

I believe in transparency. Buckley is pretty blatant about his loyalties and where they lie and one has no doubt when speaking to him that this is a personal passion for him as well as a legal one. He spoke in depth about the Truehope case, so I did know that he was involved there. He also mentioned the three suicides that occurred immediately after a natural product that was used to help people with manic depression was taken away.

But I don't feel like it's my job to defend Buckley - he's a lawyer, he can handle that himself! I'm more interested in some of the information you have posted about NHPs and their removal from the shelves of health food stores. Of course on the surface, Canadians want the regulations: we were asked if NHPs should be tested for safety and efficacy and that sounds like a really good idea. But anyone who has ever looked at the application process has to admit that it is set up in a way that almost ensures failure. The "thousands of products" that have been passed through are almost all single ingredient products, mostly vitamins and minerals. The more complicated herbal formulas have to go through such an arduous procedure to be accepted that it looks impossible. NHPs such as single amino acids and glandular extracts are already disappearing. People are not as concerned as they should be because, as you nicely pointed out, the shelves look full. The large companies are not going to fold over these regulations, they will simply become dull and ineffective as they all make their own version of the same products. Innovation will die. New products imported from other countries will become non-existent.

As you mentioned, the regulations have been in effect since 2004, however the deadline - as you well know - is not until 2010. Thousands of applications are stuck in a backlog and it is anyone's guess (though I know where my money is) whether those will have gone through the process or not by next year. Many small companies are simply waiting until they are forced out. Is there a certain amount of self-interest here as you allege? Of course. This is their work, their livelihood, the way they feed their children and it is mine as well. You illustrate your point dramatically by comparing NHP regulations to the need for crumple zones and air bags in cars. Now I'm sure that if I could propel a bottle of dandelion root down a road at 100km per hour it would cause some damage worthy of the kind of restrictions it is facing. But at a couple drops under the tongue, I can't help but wonder what the real concern is.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Are You Free?

“Are you free?” At a presentation given by Shawn Buckley this past week in Kelowna he posed this question. Buckley is a lawyer who is probably best known for his work defending the manufacturers and producers of certain natural health products when they are threatened by Health Canada. He stated that as Canadians it is essential that we start thinking about health as a freedom issue.

The ability and freedom of each individual to choose how to care for his or her body is being slowly taken away. Under the NHP regulations (which you may have read about here weeks ago when I was ranting last!) we will lose an estimated 75% f our natural health products that are currently available. This has already begun as small to medium sized companies that can’t afford the kind of bureaucratic hoop-jumping that is required to apply for product licenses are closing their doors. Add to this the fact that roughly 20,000 American products have been withdrawn by companies unhappy with our weird new regulations and you can see how this is affecting your freedom to take care of your body right now.

One fun example of this: the company Organic Essentials was forced out of business because they could no longer afford the licensing fees after Health Canada decided to reclassify their organic tampons as a Class 2 medical device. Other companies have not yet closed their doors, but are playing a waiting game with Health Canada, aware that they could have their products removed from store shelves at any time after the looming 2010 deadline.

According to Buckley, one of the first steps required to fight this loss of freedom is a shift in attitude. People need to stop thinking of natural health products as something dangerous that we need to be protected from. If we look at our neighbours to the south, we see that NHPs are unregulated and can be purchased off the shelves of any Wal-Mart. They are only pulled off the shelf if they are proven dangerous – innocent until proven guilty. There is not a single documented case of death caused by an NHP in Canadian history, so why are we so worried? In contrast, nuts kill people every single year, often small children whose parents are not yet aware that they have allergies. Could you imagine taxpayers standing idly by while their money was used to fund Peanut Butter Regulation Boards and studies, eventually pulling nuts off the shelves or making them only available with a doctor’s permission?

Bill C-51 and C-52 were shouted down as people made their voices heard loud and clear that the kind of regulations and powers suggested within were unacceptable. Bill C-6 was introduced about a month ago and is basically C-52 reincarnate – the only real difference is that it no longer says that it applies specifically to NHPs. But Buckley points out that this Bill has some very scary things in it; including the loss of private property and the loss of the ‘rule of law’, the system that has been in place for hundreds of years to keep the state from abusing its power. It would only be a matter of time before these barbaric methods of control would be extended to health products, making all of us who choose herbs over prescriptions perspective criminals.

In response to this Bill and the NHP regulations, Buckley along with his colleagues Peter Helgrasson and Tiffany Sampson have formed the Natural Health Products Protection Agency (NHPPA). “We formed the NHPPA because the existing groups were not bringing enough attention to the issue.” The NHPPA provides a legitimate and credible analysis of documents like Bill C-51 and sets up a process that other groups can use to help spread information. Buckley grins as he mentions the time the Minister of Health called him a “scoundrel” in the National Post. Now if that isn’t evidence that they are on the right track, I don’t know what is.