Our health care freedom is under attack again

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat

Just when you thought it might be safe to go back in the water

(Cue “Jaws” soundtrack)

Yes, the big sharks appear to be circling again, reminding us that our freedom to make our own health care choices can easily be taken away.

Where there’s smoke

We’ll start in Canada where things may or may not be dire.

An HSI member named Les who lives north of the border writes: “In Canada the government is trying to ram through on the fast track legislation, which will CRIMINALISE using supplements and herbal products. There is a media blackout. Passing the Bill would have very serious consequences not only for the public in Canada but in the USA, as well. Your Canadian subscribers and your membership would be adversely affected.”

Les also included a link to a web site (stopc51.com) that makes several shocking claims about Bill C-51 – a proposed law that would allow:

  • Search and seizures without warrants
  • No evidence will be required
  • Up to $5,000,000 in fines if you are suspected of having unregistered natural health products

But a Government of Canada web site about C-51 states:

  • Inspectors will not be able to enter a private home without permission or a warrant
  • Bill C-51 does not target Canadians’ personal use of natural health products
  • Canadians will not require a prescription from a doctor for natural health products

I would be the last one to suggest that ANY government’s official notices should be taken at face value. But after reading several pro and con commentaries on C-51 (and finding no evidence of a media blackout), I don’t think the sky is quite falling on natural health product use in Canada. However, some of the provisions of C-51 seem like they might be cleverly written to curb supplement use by making it more difficult for supplement manufacturers and sellers to provide the products our Canadian friends and members want.

So I’ll keep an eye on the progress of C-51. And if any of Canadian HSI members can help shed light on the threats that may be posed by this bill, please write and share details.

Cute trick

Meanwhile, back here in the U.S., drug maker GlaxoSmithKline has taken a menacing page out of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals playbook.

In several e-Alerts I sent you a couple of years back, I told you about a Wyeth petition that called on the FDA to impose broad restrictions on the compounding of bioidentical hormones – a therapy that’s widely regarded as much safer than synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT). And of course, Wyeth just happens to be the maker of the controversial synthetic HRT.

Now GSK has petitioned the FDA to prohibit supplement producers from making weight-loss claims unless the supplements are approved by the FDA. And GSK just happens to be the maker of “alli” – the only FDA-approved over-the-counter weight loss drug. And if you’ve ever read about the side effects of “alli” (see the e-Alert “Expert Tease” 7/31/06), you’ll understand why GSK would want to bump aside their competition.

GSK executives are pulling a cute one here. Currently, the FDA allows supplement manufacturers to make weight loss claims because being overweight is not classified as a medical condition. But in recent years, being overweight has been linked to risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Based on that research, the GSK petition calls on the FDA to reclassify weight loss claims as disease claims.

HSI Panelist Jon Barron slices and dices this cynical business move in a recent Baseline of Health Newsletter titled “GlaxoSmithKline Petitions the FDA” (6/9/08), which you can find at jonbarron.org.

Jon neatly exposes the can of worms that might be opened if the petition is successful. Jon: “What about vitamin C? A shortage of vitamin C in the diet leads to scurvy, a medical condition. By the applied logic, vitamin C should then be regulated as dealing with a medical condition and subject to the same rules.”

And that’s just how easily we could see our health care freedom slip away.

You can use this link to send your own comments about the GSK petition to the FDA: http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=SubmitComment&o=090 0006480511d9b

“The Official Stop C-51 Website” stopc51.com
“Bill C-51 and the Regulation of Natural Health Products – Fast Facts” Government of Canada, canadiensensante.gc.ca
“Vitamin C is About to be Made Illegal in Canada! Nutritional Supplements Banned in Canada! Bill C-51” John Freeman, Sr., FoodConsumer, 6/7/08, foodconsumer.org
“Canada Bill C-51 – Regarding Natural Health Products” Steven Novella, Science Based Medicine, 5/14/08, sciencebasedmedicine.org
“Bill C-51: A Blessing or a Curse?” Toronto Star, 5/23/08, thestar.com
“GlaxoSmithKline Petitions the FDA” Jon Barron, Baseline of Health Newsletter, 6/9/08, jonbarron.org