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Know Who's In Charge of Natural Products Regulation

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The new executive director of the fledgling Office of Natural Health Jucts has his foot in many worlds

The new executive director of the fledgling Office of Natural Health Jucts has his foot in many worlds.

Philip Waddington holds a Bachelor of Science (1986), Masters of Business Administration (1990) and is a naturo-pathic doctor (1996). He beat out 100 candidates nationwide with this unusual combination of skills and background.

"As a naturopathie doctor, my goal is the same, I think, as most of the readers of your magazine," he says. "I want to be as sure as possible that the products I take and recommend to people are exactly what they say they are."

Health Canada appointed Philip Waddington to the position in January. It is one of the latest moves to realize the goals of the Standing Committee on Health's Report Natural health Products: A New Vision. The committee considered stakeholders from across the country last year when it compiled its 53 recommendations for the future of natural health products. The new office, which is within the Health Protection Branch, was one of the recommendations.

Waddington's personal history with alternative healing methods began when he was a university student. He had a summer job at a horse farm. There, he witnessed the success of touch and homeopathic therapies in healing the horses. His driving force, however, was business and he continued on to an MBA.

When he was unable to beat a gastro-intestinal disorder through conventional means many years later, Waddington called upon a naturopathie doctor. The homeopathic remedy quickly cured him; his interest in alternative medicine was reawakened. He quit his job and enrolled at the Canadian College of Naturopathie Medicine.

"My goal as a naturopathie doctor has always been to have a positive influence on those around me," says Waddington. "Potentially I'll be able to have that influence across the country. I feel very fortunate."

Waddington's job is to coordinate the efforts of a 14-member transition team and provide vision, making sure everyone is working towards the same goals. The team includes many leaders in alternative health and has been busy setting up the structure of the new office.

"I want to ensure that there's value in this regulation," says Waddington. "We want to provide freedom of informed choice."

Immediate priorities of the office include a communications strategy that reaches the maximum number of interested people. Part of this is continuing a dialogue with stakeholders, including those who weren't in favor of a third category at all.

"The biggest thing we could do wrong is ignore the segment that don't want regulation everyone has their valid points," says Waddington. "If we listen to what they say, invariably they'll have information that we need. Also, we can work to give them a better understanding of what we're doing."

One of the most important aspects of a regulation, he says, is the eventuality that satisfactorily documented products will be able to make health claims. The amendments to the Food and Drug Act necessary to such goals have yet to be made, making immediate progress tricky.

"Everything is a fine line, balancing what we want to be allowed to do once the regulations go through and what we're allowed to do now," says Waddington.

The transition team which Waddington heads was hoping to have all its recommendations complete by the end of March. To monitor the work of Waddington and the team, see the website hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/onhp

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