Mr. Speaker, I would contend that many of these natural products do not contain claims. Perhaps some do. I think the natural products industry is pretty careful not to make claims. I purchase many products that I know work. I know that based on my 35 years of experience in using them, not because the label on the bottle says to take this and it will strengthen that.
The idea of evidence also brings to the fore the difference between natural products, herbal products, homeopathic remedies, et cetera, and pharmaceutical drugs. By and large, pharmaceutical drugs are developed and sold by major corporations that can spend hundreds of millions of dollars in testing and collecting evidence to support their claims. They then have a patent on a product and can charge huge amounts.
There are some medications that run into hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with regard to being provided to the market. That is certainly not the average, but the pharmaceutical firms invest a lot in research and evidence gathering and they can then recover that.
Who is going to spend the money for double-blind trials on a herbal product for which there is no patent and no way of recovering the costs of putting that research in place? It is simply not practical, so we cannot require the same standard of testing and evidence for a natural product, because otherwise that becomes an unintended barrier to its use.
I believe approximately that one-half of the population of British Columbia uses complementary and alternative medicine at some point during the year for their health, health care and prevention. We do not want barriers to those people taking responsibility for their health.
I had a forum in greater Vancouver a couple of years ago in which I brought together the leading thinkers in naturopathics, in traditional Chinese medicine, in the natural cancer centre associated with VGH, in massage therapy and in some of the other modalities. I brought that group of leading thinkers together in a forum at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, which is in New Westminster, with the then minister of public health, Carolyn Bennett, to talk about how we could better integrate complementary and alternative medicine into our health care system, for all those good reasons that I have already expressed.
The key that came out of that meeting and the key request that the leaders in those other modalities had of the then minister of public health was that the federal government should be investing in research. The federal government should be providing research funding to generate the evidence, because these practitioners and physicians have experienced the evidence of the effectiveness of their products. That is why half of British Columbians seek their help: because their products do work and they do no harm. These natural products, the homeopathics, the tinctures, the organotherapies, do not send people to the emergency rooms.
We need that evidence, but we need the federal government to fund the research for it. Otherwise it will not happen.