Is the framework for an Avro Arrow type demise of the Natural Health Products industry in Canada being laid by Bill C-6?
As part of the series on Natural Health Care products and the Bill C-6 controversy, today’s post delves a little deeper into the key elements of the growing debate.
Referencing the letter from Minister Leona Aglukkaq to the Senators it would appear that she is against the amendments associated with Bill C-6 as said changes would negatively impact Health Canada’s ability to protect Canadians.
Examples include amendments to clause 14(1) in which the proposed modification of the “mandatory reporting requirements according to the Minister weakens the reporting criteria under Bill C-6 by permitting industry to determine what constitutes a reportable incident.” Or clause 16, which “would require Health Canada to provide a company with prior notification when it intends to share confidential business information,” even if only sharing basic information such as product or related model numbers.
Finally, clause 21 of this Act would require Health Canada to have a warrant to inspect an office. This is problematic in that while having access to all other areas of a business without the need of a warrant, it is within a company’s office the Minister contends where the most pertinent information is likely to be kept.
So on one hand you have the Minister of Health pleading for the removal of amendments that in its opinion limits its ability to act in the best interests of the public. In other words Health Canada is basically saying that Bill C-6 doesn’t give it enough arbitrary power to act.
On the other hand, and according to the “Discussion Paper” from the NHPPA site, even though Bill C-6 “does not “currently” apply to Natural Health Products, the Bill poses a threat in two ways.”
The two ways to which the paper is referring is that Bill C-6 can through a simple “regulatory amendment” incorporate Natural Health Products under the banner of consumer products. The second is tied to the fact that Bill C-6 “sets a dangerous precedent” in that even if Natural Health Products are not incorporated as part of the original target of the Bill it will only be a matter of time before similar “powers” will be extended to include drugs which, reasons the NHPPA carries a “much higher risk profile than consumer products.” After all, with 245,000 deaths, and the random prescribing of anti psychotic drugs to children it would seem to be both logical and reasonable to institute greater government control over the drug industry.
This is an interesting impasse in that you have the Ministry saying that amendments to Bill C-6 are too weak. Conversely the NHPPA believes that through either a regulatory amendment to reclassify it as a consumer product or an extension of the Bill’s powers to include drugs (the category under which the industry is currently regulated) a serious threat exists on multiple levels not the least of which is arbitrary search and seizure without due process.
As it stands exclusion or inclusion is not what is relevant. The mere existence of Bill C-6, especially with a favorable adherence to the Minister of Health’s requests means that the Natural Health Product industry is vulnerable.
Now some may argue that under the second scenario, even with the tighter controls, Natural Health Products are being treated the same as pharmaceutical company products. Some might even suggest that this is beneficial in that the NHPPA would have a powerful ally in critical areas such as challenging the contentious search and seizure powers proposed by the Ministry.
However, the real concern is that while equal in principle, the Natural Health Products industry is at a disadvantage for a number of reasons including; a) the pharmaceutical industry has considerably more money and power with which to fight arbitrary actions on the part of the Health Ministry – a level of resources that are simply not available to the NHPPA and, b) the pharmaceutical companies have considerably more lobbying power through which they can influence decisions and even investigations. The Natural Health Products industry lacks this legislative presence.
So, if you were to look at Bill C-6 in the worst possible light, providing the Ministry with the ability to exert greater power over the Natural Health Products industry through either inclusion or extension leaves the sector in no man’s land. This would perhaps pave the way for the Pharmaceutical industry to expand “their” natural health product market share. Think of it as a kind of industry euthanasia of the Natural Health Products industry if you will.
In business by the way, this is a classic move. By keeping the intended target busy over here (re Bill C-6), the “powerful” pharmaceutical companies gain control of an important market, while maintaining an air of innocence as it is the big bad government who is taking the action. Although different, the Avro Arrow comes to mind.
Whether they know it or not, the Natural Health Products industry is possibly on the endangered species list.