CBC reporters were able to invent a children’s remedy and have it approved by the government in five months.
Photo Credit: CBC

Natural remedies given approval without proof

Popular natural or homeopathic remedies are approved by the government department Health Canada with little or no scientific evidence proving they are safe and effective, reports an investigation by the public broadcaster, CBC.

$2.4 billion worth of natural health products are sold yearly in Canada, reports the public broadcaster CBC, adding many do not require any scientific proof of their efficacy. © CBC

As a test, the program Marketplace created a child’s “remedy” and had it approved by the government in five months. Once approved, such a product is given a number which could easily be confused with the numbers given to prescription drugs which must undergo exhaustive tests before being approved.

Government number misleading

“We know that a drug identification number (DIN) is required for prescription drugs and we know the rigmarole that those kinds of drugs have to go through for approval. So, one would assume that if you see a DIN HM, that kind of product has gone through the same kind of regulatory process which is not the case at all. There is no requirement for proof of efficacy,” says Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s Office for Science & Society and a professor of chemistry.

“And in the case of homeopathy there’s no problem with safety because there’s nothing in the remedy,” he adds. Schwarcz cites an extensive review of 200 proper, randomized studies on homeopathic remedies conducted by the Australian government–“a damning study… which concluded that there’s just absolutely nothing there.”


Homeopathy called ‘hype and hope’

For a homeopathic product to be approved by the Canadian government it only has to have appeared in homeopathic literature which may be 200 years old. And although the Australian study is being widely discussed, Schwarcz is not certain that it will put a dent in the homeopathic industry which he says seems to “rise like a phoenix out of the ashes riding on the wings of hype and hope.

“That is something that is very marketable to the public but Health Canada should not be in the business of doing such marketing,” he adds. “Health Canada should be in the business of looking for safe and effective products. And whether or not the application is submitted by some sort of natural product company or a manufacturer of pharmaceutical drugs, it should be subjected to the same kind of evaluation. They should be made to furnish scientific evidence that the product actually works.”

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