CFI Canada supports the new regulations Health Canada is imposing on homeopathic “remedies” for children.

In 2015 Health Canada announced a new requirement for homeopathic “nosodes”, products marketed as homeopathic “vaccine alternatives” for children. Beginning in July 2016 these preparations will need to carry a warning label stating that they are not vaccines, nor will they protect children against infections.  This was welcome news to Canadian pediatricians who have been asking Health Canada to review regulations governing homeopathic products for years.  Nosodes are a danger because, without proper labeling, many parents choose nosodes believing them to be efficacious, and forego medically proven vaccinations for their children.  Critical treatments for sick children may also be compromised if parents use nosodes first, and subsequently delay seeking medical advice from a physician.   Dr. Michael Rieder, Chair of the Drug Therapy Committee of the Canadian Pediatric Society, says “I think the warning label shouldn’t make a claim for a health benefit that doesn’t exist or, at least as far as we know, doesn’t exist…To see kids getting vaccine-preventable disease in an era when effective and safe vaccination is available is extremely frustrating.”[1] Dr. Robert Strang, chief public health officer in Nova Scotia and former head of the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health goes further by stating that nosodes “should be taken off the market because they are dangerous and don’t work.”[2]

We echo the views of Michael Kruse, chair and interim executive director of Bad Science Watch, an advocacy group, who states, “claims that are approved by Health Canada for these products should be scientifically vetted … If there’s no evidence, then they should not be allowed.”[3]  There have been numerous scientific studies showing that nosodes have absolutely no medical benefit yet, because of problems with Health Canada’s Natural Products regulations, they do not have to meet the same standards required for true medications.[4]  The Health Canada product number on nosodes fools parents into believing that the product has been tested and proven safe for use in children.  However, few parents will understand that for homeopathic preparations the number has an NP (natural products) designation.  This means that the manufacturers need only to prove that the product has been in use for at least 50 years in order to gain approval.  CBC’s Marketplace did a good job of explaining this problem in their 2014 exposé “Remedy or Ripoff“.[5]

Predictably, the homeopathic manufacturers are opposed to the warning label requirement and are mobilizing to protect the territory they have monopolized for decades.  We applaud the changes that Health Canada is making, but we call for more.  All homeopathic preparations should provide the same evidence for efficacy that prescription and over the counter drugs must provide.   Medical decisions in Canada should be based on evidence, not precedent, and the decades-long privilege enjoyed by homeopathic preparations must come to an end.  The Canadian Homeopathic Pharmaceutical Association, which represents manufacturers and distributors, says that it is “unaware of evidence of products causing any harm.”[6]  It is of interest that they reference this lack of evidence for harm, but ignore the lack of evidence for efficacy. Since most nosodes are composed of sugar and water, with no detectable active ingredients, consuming them is likely not harmful. The real harm lies in the false choice offered to parents who put their children at risk by choosing nosodes over vaccinations. Homeopathic advertising often makes false claims against vaccines and other medications that confuse parents and influence their health choices. Accurate, evidence-based information should be clearly indicated on the label so all Canadians can make the “informed choices” that homeopathic organizations claim to support.  The National Health and Medical Research Council of the Australian Government has taken a strong stance in exposing the lack of efficacy in homeopathy remedy or disease prevention.[7] We hope that the Canadian government will adopt a similar stance and that these new regulations will be a welcome first step toward controlling all homeopathic preparations sold in Canada.