Canadian dietary supplement regulation in race to bottom with U.S.

Canadian dietary supplement regulation in race to bottom with U.S.

I am so relieved to learn that the United States is not the only country that allows "Big Supp" (the dietary supplement industry) and its allies to run the show!  Perhaps my following pro-CAM legislation here all year round has left me paranoid that we are the only ones who engage this sort of dangerous folly. 

Scott Gavura, a Canadian pharmacist and blogger over on Science-Based Medicine, reports that the Canadian Parliament is on the verge of passing a new law that would tighten up drug regulation by imposing additional adverse event reporting requirements, substantially increasing fines, allowing for post-marketing monitoring, requiring updating drug labels in the face of new information, and giving the Canadian government the authority to remove drugs from the market.  The proposals for change have been dubbed "Vanessa's Law," after a daughter  of a Canadian member of Parliament who died of an adverse drug reactions.  And here I note another similarity between Canadian and American legislators: it sometimes takes a legislator's own tragedy to get the attention of politicians. 

Frankly, this is one time I was actually rather proud that American regulation was ahead of the Canadians.  Otherwise, their single-payer health care system runs rings around ours.

But, shades of DSHEA!  The new law would exempt "natural products," which includes dietary supplements.  Scott succinctly  summarizes why this is a bad idea:

  • Consumers believing natural products are safe may be less likely to associate adverse events with supplement use.
  • Supplements don’t require a prescription. No health professional may be involved in measuring the response to therapy, who might be able to identify adverse events as part of a monitoring plan.
  • Side effects and harms may not be reported, as some are reluctant to share concerns with health professionals.
  • Consumers may not know how to manage an adverse event, and to whom they should report an adverse event. They may be unwilling to describe health consequences to the vendor of a product, or report in a setting like a natural foods store.
  • Users may have a distrust of “conventional” medicine which drove their initial use of the product. When adverse events were identified, they may be reluctant to consult “conventional” health care providers for assistance.
  • Some fear of losing access to supplements, which may drive a reluctance to report adverse events.
  • Supplements are commonly used for short intervals for self-limiting conditions, and long-term harms may not appear (or be detectable).


In other words, the same deficiencies that plague regulation (or lack thereof) of the dietary supplement industry in the U.S.

A Canadian organization called "Bad Science Watch" (don't you wish you'd thought of the name "Bad Science" -- so apt, so descriptive of CAM) was formed recently to fight, well, bad science. Bad Science Watch is making some headway in fighting this exemption. If you care to help them, you can complain to the Canadian Parliament, or give them some money, or both. 

SCAM, Bad Science, pseudoscience, quackery, nonsense -- whatever you want to call it -- knows no political boundaries.  Fortunately, science doesn't either. 

And speaking of fighting CAM nonsense, back in the U.S., June 10th is the deadline for commenting on Section 2706 of the Affordable Care Act, the "non-discrimination" provision. This provision threatens to require that all health insurers include chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists and homeopaths in their provide panels (that is, the health care providers whose services they will cover).  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services apparently doesn't want to make the insurers do this, but a Senate Committee is pushing them to require pseudo-medicine practitioners as a part of all health care insurance. HHS is looking for your input.  Let's help them by pointing out the many reasons the Senate's interpretation is a really bad idea. They can then use your ideas to try to influence the outcome. 










Points of Interest 06/06/2014
It Is Still a Demon Haunted World