This is the conclusion drawn by the firm Intersol, which has drafted a report for Health Canada on an online consultation launched last autumn. The document notes that «mobilization campaigns organized» have been launched by some manufacturers and consumers of natural health products. The Herbothèque, institute of herbalism and traditional medicine, has published answers to questions from Health Canada and have prompted internet users to «copy passages» in the questionnaire.
«The results therefore reflect the views and priorities of these individuals and these groups, but may not encompass a broader population of Canadians with a known level of accuracy,» says Intersol in his report.
Among the surprising results of the consultation, we learn in particular that a majority of respondents who define themselves as «health professionals» is opposed to health products are approved based on scientific evidence. Consumers also refuse measures that would withdraw more quickly from the hazardous products of the shelves.
The consultation focused on a draft of Health Canada to do the housework in the industry of what are called the » products of self-care «, cosmetics, natural health products and drugs sold without prescription. However, the Health Canada proposals have largely been rejected by a majority of participants. This includes those who define themselves as » health professionals «, a category that includes homeopaths and naturopaths, according to the firm Intersol.
The results of the consultation are considered to be distorted by Chris MacDonald, an expert in business ethics at Ryerson University, in Toronto, that qualifies as » biased «. Despite this, Health Canada is staying the course. The Department has just announced a new wave of consultations on the same matter, which will extend from April to June.
Professor MacDonald emphasizes that the proponents of natural health products have perfectly the right to participate in a consultation on a subject that concerns them. He wondered, however, why Health Canada is committed to such exercises, knowing that they are in the majority to participate.
«It is difficult to be against the consultation, he told The Press. But at a certain point, I think the government should just make decisions. «
«It is sure that the campaigns have influenced the tone and the comments received, must be Manon Bombardier, director general of the directorate of natural health products and non-prescription at Health Canada, in an interview with The Press. But they are still comments that are important and which was taken into account in the process of refinement of the proposal. «
M –am Bombardier explains that the further consultations that start will focus on a more detailed version of the proposals, but that the broad lines of the reform remain the same. She was unable to specify a timeframe for the entry into service of the new regulations.
«It is not made again,» she said, saying they wanted to » take the time to do things right «.
A CONTROVERSIAL REFORM
While the industry of natural health products said that the planned overhaul of Health Canada goes too far and restrict access to products, but many experts instead believe that it is insufficient to protect Canadians. Yves Jalbert, of the public health Association of Quebec, denounces, for example, the idea of classifying the products of self-care in three categories of risk. «Health Canada opened a door with it. It is well known that the manufacturers will do everything to ensure that their products fall into the category of low risk to be less regulated, » he says.
Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor emeritus at the School of Health Policy and Management from the University York, in Toronto, reflects poorly on him that the reform does not address the question of the publicity surrounding the drugs without a prescription, and that is, according to him, problematic. «Another example of the regulatory approach is completely unacceptable to Health Canada,» he laments. Yves Jalbert also believed that Health Canada should stop using the term «natural health products» because it suggests that these products are good for health and are natural, whereas this is often not the case.
THE MAIN PROPOSALS FOR HEALTH CANADA
1. Divide the products of self-care in three categories according to the risk they pose and to adapt the regulatory function of this risk.
2. Require companies to provide scientific evidence for the claims that affect health. The other allegations (moisturizes the skin, promotes the metabolism of fats, helps in the formation of bone) would not be checked, but the label of the products would display a » notice of non-responsibility «.
3. Identify the products by numbers in order to facilitate their removal from the shelves in case of problems.
1. What do you think of the proposal to require it to provide scientific data supporting a health claim ?
Consumers : 29 % for, 56 % against
Health professionals : 33% for, 51 % against
Manufacturers of natural products : 21 % for, 67 % against
Academics : 60 % for, 28 % against
2. Do you think that the use of an identifier of a product is necessary to help consumers to identify a product in case they wish to report a problem with this product ?
Consumers : 31 % for, 38 % against
Health professionals : 32 % for, 29 % against
Manufacturers of natural products : 29 % for, 31% against
Academics : 54 % for, 16 % against