Those who vouch for the benefits of traditional herbal medicines and natural health products will now have a chance to protest against Bill C-51, which seeks to regulate the entry of natural health products.
Confirming that Bill C-51 is not with an intention to wipe out herbal products from the shelves, Federal Health Minister Tony Clement explained that the proposed legislation in effect seeks to protect the consumer and to monitor the $20-billion-a-year drug industry. It will also enable Health Canada to focus on drug safety from start to finish.
"Ninety-nine per cent of the natural health product industry delivers an excellent product," Clement said. "But there is the one per cent who don't label properly or warn about serious side effects."
"If the product is a vitamin, the negative impact of taking a vitamin is low, so it will be fast-tracked and won't have to go through the rigamarole other products would encounter. "If the risk it low, it will be fast-tracked. If high, for example the product claims to cure cancer, it will take more time."
John Biggs, owner of three Optimum Health stores, is wary of Health Canada and does not trust this motive. He believes that Health Canada is prejudiced against the natural health industry.
Several years back the natural health products industry had requested Health Canada for a distinct category of its products. As an answer to this, the ministry designed a Natural Products Directorate that accorded each natural health product a number to legalize it for sale.
The natural directorate was also unable to handle the huge numbers of applications coming in for approval, a number close to 45000 natural products applying for numbers.
"In four years, the Natural Products Directorate has only processed 6,000 of them."The ones that remain unapproved are in technical violation and C-51 makes unapproved therapeutic products illegal," Biggs said.