Since the regulation of NHPs as drugs by Health Canada, there have been a number of costs associated with the change: producers were required to jump through expensive hoops in order to satisfy new licensing requirements, retailers had to thin out their shelves, and the new, higher costs of supplements were passed onto consumers. Even on the surface level these new costs are frustrating, but, delving deeper, the cost of NHPs as compared to the cost of prescription drugs is downright mind-boggling.
The first problem is that the new, higher cost of natural health remedies renders them inaccessible to lower-income Canadians. While prescription drugs are usually covered by insurance, natural health remedies are not, and the high costs now associated with supplements make them impossible for some Canadians to afford, even if the NHPs have fewer side effects and better results than their prescription counterparts. Those without insurance may also find that prescription drugs can be less expensive than NHPs, depending on the treatment, because while prescription drugs can be claimed on tax forms, NHPs are not eligible for tax benefits. Furthermore, because alternative therapies like acupuncture, massage therapy, and naturopathy are not covered by provincial health plans, these treatments can often be out of reach for lower-income Canadians.
The second problem comes from accessibility. While there are pharmacies all over the place, often connected to doctors’ offices and in central locations, it can be difficult to find NHPs, especially without a car. For students or those working hours better suited to 24-hour businesses, natural health remedies may be off the table.
The third problem comes from a lack of education. Though there are many doctors that are happy to refer their patients to a naturopath or recommend NHPs, there are still many that opt for prescription drug treatments first or refute the effectiveness of NHPs. Treating NHPs as alternative therapies rather than front-line treatments contributes to their obscurity and the perception that they are optional, when in reality there are many people that require NHPs for their well-being.
So what can you do? There are a couple of options:
- You can write your MP and tell them that the regulations placed on NHPs are to the detriment of the health of Canadians. Ask that acupuncture and other therapies be added to provincial health plans, and insist that, at the very least, natural health products and treatments be eligible to claim on your tax forms.
- You can write your insurance company and ask that they add NHPs to their coverage.
- You can support your local health food store instead of big pharmacies that are looking to cash in on Natural Health Products while still pushing drugs.
- You can make sure to find a family doctor that is supportive of natural health products and therapies.
- You can share this article and spread the word about the challenges facing NHPs and other therapies in Canada.