When the Natural Health Product Regulations came into effect in 2004, there was great fear among those in the industry – and not without good reason. With time, tens of thousands of products have disappeared from Canadian shelves and those that remain have been massively altered. Gaping holes where American imports used to sit and multi-ingredient products used to adorn shelves have been filled with diluted versions of their former selves, or not replaced at all as Canadian manufacturers struggle to gain NPN numbers for products that American producers gave up on long ago.
With the cost of the licensing process being too high and the Canadian market being far too small because of a lower population, American manufacturers cut their losses and pulled out of business north of the 49th parallel. When combined with exceedingly difficult approval processes for multi-ingredient products, the effects at home on the industry have been dramatic.
So what will the Natural Health Product Industry be like in the next 10 years? With the NHP Regulations continuing as they are and many medical professionals calling for ever-more stringent regulations, it would appear that big business is going to continue to take the day. Pharmaceutical corporations are the big players in the industry now, creating lower quality products that are easy to get approval for – products which don’t stand a chance sitting next to drug products for similar diseases on drug store shelves.
Due to the fact that Health Canada is still forcing manufacturers to make claims which they then have to prove with costly clinical trials for products that then cannot be patented, there is little incentive to create products of higher quality than what monographs advocate for – and these tend to contain the lowest amount of an ingredient to show some nutritional support; however, for therapeutic dose, or for combination products that produce a synergistic effect, these products are out of luck due to the issue of conducting trials. All of this could be avoided if products were not forced to make health claims.
The irony is that the mass media and the medical industry slam the natural health industry for making such health claims but they fail to recognize that this is a mandatory part of the approval process for the Natural Health Regulations and cannot be avoided under the current mandate of Health Canada.
In ten years, the future looks pretty grim for people’s access to quality, natural health products from local manufacturers and small business owners. If the next ten years are anything like the last twelve, we will see the little guys slowly eeked out by the big pharmaceutical players and the products that Canadians will have access to will be of lesser quality and less choice as well.
The NHP Regulations need to be changed if the future of the industry and the health freedom of Canadian citizens is to be protected. Write to your MP demanding that the bureaucrats of Health Canada be held accountable for the dangers they pose to our burdened health care system and Canadian citizens on the whole by removing safe, effective natural product options.