Support Bill C-51
On April 8 the Health Minister, Tony Clement, introduced Bill C-51. Bill C-51’s intention is to reform the Canadian Food and Drug act to further regulate the selling of alternative medicines. It’s main effect is that it uses the broader term “Therapeutic Products” to encapsulate homeopathic and naturopathic medicine as well as conventional drugs. The bill is being met with a great deal of opposition by people who have misinterpreted it’s intentions.
There is currently little regulation over natural medicines, as they are simply categorized as foods. It’s easy to find products claiming unrealistic results like stopping hair loss, combating aging of the brain, or even curing cancer. To regulate this industry would be to create accountability for the often blatantly false claims made by the manufacturers of these drugs. To oppose this bill is to encourage the propagation of products that don’t live up to what they claim to do. As a consumer when I pick up a bottle of pills that is advertised as doing something, I would hope that those claims have passed Government approved testing. This is currently not the case.
The argument made in favour of continuing the segregation of conventional drugs from Natural Health Products (NHPs) this bill would include is that NHPs are currently calssified as food, and fall under a completely separate classification. This arbitrary separation is completely illogical, as whether the source of a chemical is natural or not has no bearing on it’s physiological effects. Snake venom, arsenic, deadly nightshade, poison ivy, and opium are all ‘natural’. Should these be freely sold to people without being properly regulated? I know these sound like extreme examples but deterrents of the bill insinuate that it could be used to regulate the sale of blueberries or grapefruit. This is not the point of the bill and falls completely outside of it’s scope. There is a clear and obvious distinction between blueberries and pills made from concentrated blueberry extract advertised as preventing Alzheimer’s. A distinction that does not currently exist, and needs to be made.
The main arguments opposing the bill can be seen at a number of websites. It would seem one person came to a few ridiculous conclusions and they have been regurgitated by people unable and unwilling to think for themselves. Instead of criticizing the bill on its merits, they create a conspiracy theory about “Big Pharma” pushing in this legislation.
The following main arguments are often repeated:
This bill seeks to outlaw 60% of natural health products.
Where this magical number comes from, I do not know. No doubt a number of products currently on the market will be outlawed, because they make false claims or are not manufactured in safe and sanitary conditions. The point is not to simply stop all these products, but to encourage them to adhere to proper standards. Obviously since there are no current firm standards, products don’t adhere to them. It doesn’t take a level 7 Shaman to figure that out.
This bill will make it illegal for a parent to give natural medicine, berries or orange juice to their children.
This is pretty much the stupidest thing someone could say on the issue. The bill would place restrictions on who could sell such products. The ignorant assumption is made that a parent giving a therapeutic product to their child would be categorized as a seller, but the bill comes nowhere close to saying anything of the sort. This is simply a misinterpretation of it’s true intentions.
The Government can break into your house and disable your bank account if you dry grass in your kitchen.
Again this is just a misinterpretation of the intentions of the bill. Provisions are made to be able to properly prosecute people who do not adhere to the changes laid out, and someone picking tea leaves from their garden and putting them in boiled water would no more fall under this bill than someone who makes food for their children is considered to be a restaurant, or would require a liquor license to give someone a beer that’s in their fridge.
No one seems to care about the legitimate intended purpose of this bill, which is simply to protect consumers from buying dangerous untested medication, but instead people are trying to pick on perversions of the bill which is assumed to be intended to create implausible loopholes that will be enforced just as soon as the CRTC arrests me for “exhibiting” movies in my living room while a couple of cats sit in for the viewing.
It’s important to realize that NHPs would still be allowed to be sold, but they would be required to show their safety and efficacy. What’s wrong with that? Of course, this is assuming that if the bill became law, that it would actually be enforced. Most likely, the law would only be used to remove products that are suspected of being harmful, similar to how pharmaceuticals are treated after they reach the market.
Do your country a favour and contact your member of Parliament to let them know that you support Bill C-51.