The public hearings will be held during the next three months in all regions of the country in order to measure the support to the new changes proposed by the government, said Manon Bombardier, director general, natural health Products and non-prescription Health Canada on Friday.
The federal ministry had already conducted a first round of consultations, in line, last fall and has received the advice of more than 3500 respondents – consumers, industry representatives, health providers and advocacy groups of the public interest. However, the reform proposed by Ottawa had been rather badly received, especially by the proponents of natural health products. Health Canada has therefore decided to propose a new version of its reform and to submit it to public hearings.
According to Mme Bombardier, the reform aims to ensure that Canadians always have access to a wide range of products that are safe and effective and which can reach the shelves quickly, without, however, compromising on the step tests and analyses.
Any product considered to be at moderate or high risk – a new prescription pain reliever, for example -should first pass the test of the federal authorities. The lower risk products such as vitamins, homeopathic or herbal medicines used for a long time – would not be tested by Health Canada. These products could not, however, purport “cure” or “prevent” a disorder in particular, or even “relieve” symptoms.
“Health Canada is of the opinion that, in general, the “products of self-care” represent a reduced risk and therefore, should not be treated as prescription drugs”, sums up Mme Bombardier.
Under the current regulation, a product as “harmless” as a toothpaste may fall into three distinct categories, depending on whether it cleans just teeth, it contains fluoride or bleaching the smile with peroxide. “We try to make the whole system more coherent, fairer and easier to understand for the consumer,” says Mme Bombardier.
The new version of the reform proposed by Health Canada can be consulted on the website of the ministry. In Quebec, the public consultation will be held on the 24th of April, in Montreal.