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 Add to this the fact that roughly 20,000 American products have been withdrawn by companies unhappy with our weird new regulations and you can see how this is affecting your freedom to take care of your body right now.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.

1 comment:

Ex-drone said...

You do realize that Shawn Buckley is working in the interest of StopC51, which is really the Truehope supplement company bent on deregulating NHPs presumably for their own profit. In any case, you should take Mr. Buckley's analysis with a grain of salt.

For example, where you say about Bills C-6 and C-52 that "the only real difference is that [C-6] no longer says that it applies specifically to NHPs", you, and I take it Mr. Buckley, are incorrect. Bill C-52 never had anything to do with NHPs, and neither does the current Bill C-6. Check paragraph 4(1) and Schedule 1 of both C-52 and C-6. They both exclude "drugs" as defined by the Food and Drugs Act, which includes NHPs. Surely, Mr. Buckley can do a better analysis than that.

Where you say "Under the NHP regulations ... we will lose an estimated 75% of our natural health products that are currently available", that is incorrect as well. The NHP Regulations have been in force since 2004. Have you seen 75% of the NHPs disappear in the meantime? Bill C-6 has nothing to do with NHPs. Last Parliament's Bill C-51, which will likely be reintroduced, does not amend or affect the NHP Regulations. I fail to see why 75% of NHPs would suddenly disappear if they haven't by now. Certainly, all the NHP store shelves that I have seen are full. Thousands of NHPs have been licensed already, and the licensing of the rest continues.

No doubt, some companies are having trouble affording regulations - that's true in any industry sector - but that's the price of safety. (In any case, Bills C-51 and C-6/C-52 do not amend or affect the NHP Regulations.) The Regulations concern the safety and quality of NHPs. If a company can't afford meeting the Regulations, I don't think that eliminating the Regulations is a prudent reaction. When car manufacturers balked at designing crumple zones and installing airbags, should we have reacted by getting rid of the applicable regulations and relieving them of the responsibility to improve our safety so that they could make more money?

Are you implying that NHP companies are so saintly that they won't cut safety or quality corners to improve their bottom line? Just before Christmas, the FDA alerted the public to 28 weight-loss products for sale in the less regulated US NHP market that contained pharmaceuticals and other unlisted and unsafe ingredients. The manufacturers refused to recall their products. A reintroduced Bill C-51 will ensure that Canadian NHP consumers are not put in the same predicament by allowing the government to order the recall of unsafe food, drugs, NHPs, cosmetics and drugs.

NHPs will always be available for sale in Canada as long as they meet the Regualtions that have been in place since 2004. The current and expected legislations will not change this. If you choose to deregulate NHPs in Canada, then you will be trading your safety as an NHP consumer for increased profits by NHP manufacturers. I don't think that you need to let them off the hook so easily.

Barry Green
Ottawa Skeptics