Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to introduce Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. This is an important bill to Canadians.It is also a simple and clean bill.
Bill C-420 responds to the requests of Canadians, beginning with attempts by Health Canada to regulate natural health products and to put them under a drug directorate that started in the nineties. In 1997 there was a huge outcry from the public in response to this over-regulation of natural health products. Over one million people communicated their displeasure to the government that natural health products such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, were harmless vitamin compounds with low adverse reactions. People did not want them to be brought under the onerous responsibility of a drug directorate.
In the 36th Parliament, the minister of the day called on the health committee to look into this. The health committee heard from Canadians and listened to witnesses from across the country. The committee tabled its report called “Natural Health Products: A New Vision” in November 1998. It contained some 53 recommendations. The provisions of Bill C-420 are taken basically out of the committee's recommendations and out of the subsequent work that was done.
Recommendation No. 36 stated:
Health Canada, subsequently, conduct a study with the participation of representatives from consumer groups, the food, natural health products and pharmaceutical industries, and health practitioners to determine whether subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act or all of the diseases listed in Schedule A should be deleted.
Recommendation No. 53 stated:
The Minister appoint, immediately, a transition team responsible for ensuring that the new framework is established quickly.
Bill C-420 addresses these recommendations. Subsections 3(1) and 3(2) and Schedule A would be deleted.
A transition team was assembled and it carried the ball a little further by creating the Office of Natural Health Products. The final report of the Office of Natural Health Products transition team was tabled on March 31, 2000. The report was the cumulation of a response to the outcry from more than one million Canadians. We know that those concerned are even greater in number today.
The transition team recommended that Schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act be removed. It lists a number of diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states for which treatments, preventions or cures cannot be advertised or sold to the general public, and in particular, makes reference to subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act which state:
- (1) No person shall advertise any food, drug, cosmetic or device to the general public as a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A.
(2) No person shall sell any food, drug, cosmetic or device (a) that is represented by label, or (b) that the person advertises to the general publicas a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A.
With regard to Schedule A, the transition team recommended that “more importantly, the schedule does not reflect contemporary scientific thought. The weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases and disorders listed in Schedule A through the judicious use of NHPs. It is time the regulations and legislation reflect the prevailing science”.
A recommendation was made to remove all diseases listed in Schedule A and that subsections 3(1) and 3(2) should be revoked through legislative renewal initiatives.
My bill addresses the concerns of Canadians and the concerns identified by the health committee in the 36th Parliament. It implements the recommendations in the final report of the Office of Natural Health Products transition team.
There has been quite a lot of interest in the bill since its first reading in the House on March 20. There have been responses from across the country already because Canadians are concerned.
Frankly Canadians feel betrayed by what has happened in the interim. The good consultative process was moving in the right direction and Canadians were satisfied that the government had listened. However the Canada Gazette part I came out with the consequences of the implementation.
Canadians were led to believe there would be three categories: food, natural health products and drugs. We are finding that in fact there are only two categories: food and drugs. Natural health products have been put under the drug directorate as a subclass of drugs with the attendant responsibilities for clinical trials prior to any claims being made. This is a betrayal of all the consultation.
The bill seeks to address the concerns of Canadians. These products are ones that have traditional uses and have been in use for many years. The adverse reaction rate is very minimal, hardly measurable compared to drugs.
To put the onerous burden of a drug directorate on this industry will drive the costs up and will remove many products from the market. In fact under the existing regime many very good products have been withheld from Canadians. I will mention a few of the ones that are restricted.
This morning as part of my nutritional supplementation I took chromium picolinate. As a health care practitioner for many years, I recommended that my patients take chromium picolinate. It is essential because chromium is essential for the glucose tolerance factor and that is important for the metabolism of sugar. There are dozens of studies in the medical literature about the effectiveness of chromium and the importance of chromium as a trace mineral in the metabolic pathways of sugar. That product is technically illegal to sell in Canada because there are health claims made by it and of course scientific literature to support it.
L-tryptophan was taken off the market. It is an amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are some 22 amino acids. L-tryptophan has a calming effect. It is like a sedative. When we feel sleepy after a turkey dinner it is because there is a lot of tryptophan in turkey. Unfortunately it was taken off the market, a simple building block of protein, because it is effective in calming people down. What is wrong with this picture?
Then there are products like melatonin and stevia, a sweetener that the member for Macleod prefers to use and he is a surgeon.
I would like to compliment the members on the health committee during the 36th Parliament who heard from Canadians. The members for Macleod, Nanaimo--Cowichan, and Saskatoon--Wanuskewin represented the then Reform Party. They did an excellent minority report.
My bill calls for the deletion of subsections 3(1) and (2) which are antiquated and the deletion of schedule A. These are recommendations which the minority report supported, which the committee basically supported, and which the transition team definitely supported.
I am hoping that all members will want to get behind the bill. I know they are going to hear from Canadians. Canadians are concerned about this issue and the tremendous benefits that are being withheld from them for very poor reasons, or no reason at all.
Some communications have come in recently. Martin Hanle from Vancouver wrote, “Safe products do not need undue regulation and my right to make choices without unwarranted and unjustifiable restrictions needs to be permitted”. Alexander from Penticton wrote with similar concerns, as did Grant from Kelowna. Doris Hall from New Brunswick wrote that she is upset that natural products have been withheld while pharmaceutical products such as acetaminophen, which can have drastic drawbacks, are seemingly allowed to roam unfettered.
Inga Hanle from Vancouver wrote, “Please, please vote for Bill C-420”. Lois Flett, a registered nurse from Prince Edward Island, wrote in support of Bill C-420.
Petitioners from Nobel, Orangeville, Burlington, Toronto, Brampton, North York, Goderich, Aurora, Concord, Bobcaygeon and New Hamburg, all in Ontario, are asking for support for Bill C-420. People from Parry Sound, Ontario and from Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver, Errington, my own communities, are sending in petitions.
Jeremy Duggan from Belleville wrote:
--be assured I am in 100% agreement with the majority of my fellow citizens in demanding that our representatives represent us.... Listen to the people that elected you. Allow us the choice - we are intelligent, informed people living in the 21st century, no longer willing to tolerate 19th century politics.
Chris Gupta from London, Ontario wrote:
Like so many Canadian citizens, we have lost trust and respect in Health Canada officials.
He asked that Bill C-420 to be supported.
Trueman Tuck from Belleville said:
Please, help us change the modern medical paradigm from one addicted to pharmaceuticals and surgery, to one focused on treating and preventing the underlying causes of disease--
He supports Bill C-420.
Michael Chamish from Vancouver wrote:
As Canadians we view it as our fundamental constitutional right under the Canadian Charter of Rights to have unrestricted access to these types of products, including information.
A lawyer from Ontario wrote to express her concern. These are all just in the last few days.
Wendell Wamboldt from the Healthwize Wellness Centre said:
Ottawa just slapped our food supplements with GST/HST [according to] policy statement P-240 because of representations of the drug companies.This is a new tax as these things have never been taxed and Ottawa is trying to say it is a “policy clarification” - more government doublespeak.
People are concerned when all of a sudden companies that produce natural health products are being slapped with GST retroactively. One company is facing a half a million dollar penalty from CCRA. It seems that Health Canada has turned CCRA loose on these industries to try and shut them down, or that is the way it seems to them.
I could go on. Many other people are communicating. I expect that members will be receiving a lot of communication on this file. It is something Canadians have been asking for. It is not a question of safety.
I want to mention an excellent report done by the Fraser Institute. The institute published a report in February 2002 on its analysis of the regulatory framework. It is called “A Cure Worse Than the Illness: Canada's proposed regulatory framework for natural health products in light of international evidence”.
It is a 50 page report and I recommend it to anyone interested in this issue. It is a great overview of the proposed regulatory framework for NHPs. It compares the adherence of proposed NHP regulations to the government's own regulatory policy. These overregulations do not appear to be justified according to the government's own policy.
The Fraser Institute compares the regulation of prescription drugs vis-à-vis natural health products and it makes some very significant recommendations.
One of the things it draws attention to is worth mentioning. It talks about part 4 of the proposed regulatory framework which deals with clinical trials. According to the NHPD this component has been developed to recognize the generally accepted principles of good clinical practice. There was no mention in the regulations in any of the NHPD's public consultation documents in 2001 of clinical trials before any claims could be made for effectiveness.
There is a problem. I asked a question of Mr. Romanow because he is considered to be the champion of health care in Canada. He was at committee a little more than a week ago. I asked him about his own report because billions are going in and depending upon who is talking it is $17 billion over three years or $35 billion over five years. There is a lot of money going in but it is all going in on what we call a disease management model of health care.
There is an inverse relationship between a disease management model and a remediation and prevention model of treatment. The more we invest in remediation and prevention, the less we will have to spend on disease management.
Sadly it seems that the whole system has been preoccupied with funding an increasingly failing disease management system. We need to invest in wellness and prevention. We need to allow Canadians the freedom of choice in health care products. It is what they want. It is what they are asking for. It is what they were promised.
The bill addresses the concerns of Canadians. It is my hope that all members of the House will support the bill and will give Canadians what they are looking for.