Responding to Deane Parkes
Dr. Colin Carrie, Conservative MP for Oshawa, Ontario and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health
Letter to the Editor, alive Magazine
Re: Open Letter Questioning NHP Regulations by Deane Parkes
I would like to take this opportunity to reply to some of the comments made by Deane Parkes in your magazine.
First, I would like to thank Mr. Parkes for his passion and interest in Natural Health Products (NHPs), and for taking the time to speak with me. I understand and appreciate the importance of this issue and continue to maintain a dialogue with a variety of stakeholders from the NHP field as part of my ongoing effort to understand the wide array of opinions on this important matter.
Personally, I recognize the importance of NHPs in improving the health of Canadians – my family and I use a variety of them in our daily lives. I would like to impress upon you that Health Canada acknowledges the increasingly important role NHPs are playing in Canadians’ efforts to maintain and improve their health - and the role of manufacturers and retailers in making those products readily available. The role of Health Canada’s as the regulator is to help ensure that the NHPs Canadians use are safe, effective and of high quality. Health claims made for every NHP have to assessed and verified. It would be appropriate to bring to your attention that Health Canada and the Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) employ a range of professionals with credentials and expertise in a multitude of fields including; naturopaths, homeopaths and herbalists to help develop policy and assess health claims, in addition to developing a better understanding of the NHP industry as a whole.
As your readers may be aware, NHPs are governed under their own unique regulations, the Natural Health Products Regulations (NHPR), which take into account the unique nature and properties of these products. According to Health Canada, since the introduction of the Regulations in 2004, the number of NHPs available to Canadians has grown steadily. Today, Canadians have access to well over 50,000 authorized NHPs and the number continues to grow each day. The NHP industry has grown as well with 4% growth in 2007 and 5% growth in 2008. Recognizing the unique and diverse nature of the Canadian NHP market and the range of claims products can make, Health Canada accepts various types of evidence to support the safety and efficacy of these products.
Efficiency remains a priority for our government and as such we are working towards simpler, more flexible and more effective regulatory system that supports innovation and maintains consumer safety. We are committed to try to reduce the administrative burden for bringing new low risk natural health products to market.
The Government has made great strides in this regard. I’m pleased to advise you that we have recently created a new Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Advisory Committee to provide advice on current and emerging issues related to the importation, sale, and use of TCMs in Canada. The Government also recently announced changes to the classification of ten naturally sourced ingredients making them eligible for inclusion as an NHP. The 10 ingredients include minerals, oils and salts which are used in traditional medicine and in Western natural health product formulations to maintain and improve health. These ingredients had previously been restricted to products available by prescription. With this change in classification, the following ten ingredients will no longer be restricted to prescription products only and will become eligible, under certain conditions, for authorization under the Natural Health Products Regulations.
I would like to thank your readers and the stakeholders in the NHP field for their continued input; there is always room for improvement. My colleagues and I are committed to looking at ways to make additional improvements over the coming months.
Dr. Colin Carrie, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health