The federal NDP health critic says he is appalled by the proposed regulations that would require claims on the labels of natural health products to be backed by the same level of scientific evidence as over-the-counter medications.
Currently, Health Canada is consulting a possible new series of regulations for the labeling of "self-care" products, which include cosmetics, natural health products and over-the-counter medications.
Deputy Vancouver Kingsway, Don Davies, told reporters he is concerned about the implications for the public and for manufacturers of things like vitamins and herbal medicines.
"This has caused great dismay and concern among patients, among professionals and industry in Canada, as they see that these changes can lead to consumers having fewer choices about the products they want to access," said Davies. Monday in the morning.
Health Canada says it is trying to make the rules more consistent for everything from vitamins to traditional Chinese medicine to over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol.
The proposed changes would mean, for example, that a homeopathic remedy that aims to alleviate cold symptoms would require the same level of scientific evidence as an over-the-counter medication.
Products that are not reviewed for their effectiveness may require a disclaimer on the label to make it clear.
At this time, the health claims associated with these alternative treatments may be approved by Ottawa if they are backed by unscientific evidence such as traditional use or an herbal pharmacopoeia.
The maximum fine for breaking the rules of natural health products is $ 5,000, while pharmaceutical companies can be fined more than $ 5 million for violating Canadian laws on over-the-counter drugs.
Davies told CBC that he believes any health claim should be supported by evidence, but that clinical trials are too expensive for manufacturers to justify when they can not patent their natural health products.
"The result will be that the industry will have to spend a lot of money and lose business with other industry players outside the country," he said.
According to Davies, natural health products generate more than $ 12 billion in annual revenue in Canada, and exports are valued at $ 1.5 to $ 2 billion.
Bernie Garrett, a professor of nursing at UBC who studies cheating in health care, rejected the argument that clinical trials are too expensive for manufacturers of natural health products.
"That's the price of security," he told CBC. "Unless we do the kind of research we have to do with standard pharmaceuticals and medicines, how do we know they are safe and what are the long-term side effects?"
During Monday's press conference, Davies appeared with fellow New Democrat Jenny Kwan, and gave reporters a petition asking the Canadian government to abide by current regulations for natural health products.
The petition says that natural products for health "are not medicines, and should be regulated properly given their prolonged use and unique applications."
The petition was developed by the Health Action Network Society (HANS), a Vancouver charity with a history of spreading anti-vaccination claims, along with practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.
The general manager of HANS, Naida Geisler, said that the proposed regulations "do not respect … the health traditions of a multicultural society," especially traditional homeopathic and Chinese remedies.
Health Canada says that the proposed rules are not expected to affect the availability of natural health products.
"While these proposed changes are intended to make the labels easier to read, they will in no way affect the way the product is regulated," a ministry spokesperson said in an email.