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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

Natural Health Products Bill Update

Updated: Feb 15

Beware the ever-shifting sands of geopolitics

A key element of the Natural Health Products (NHP) Bill is to establish a regulatory regime which is consistent with our trade partners, with essentially identical legislation already having been passed in Australia, South Africa, the EU and Canada, and similar legislation in the US. The urgency with which the NHP Bill was initially being pushed through parliament was, at least in part, driven by the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which New Zealand and Australia have already signed. However, US President-elect Donald Trump said he would withdraw the US from the TPPA on his first day in office. As a result, the TPPA is now effectively stalled and one of the key drivers for the NHP Bill has diminished. John Key’s departure from the Prime Minister’s office will further weaken the Government’s resolve to pursue the multi-lateral TPPA. However, the NHA urges vigilance. Trade-law harmonisation is seen as an ‘imperative’ by the world’s largest economies and corporations, and the US is highly likely to embrace the TPPA in some form at some point. This will effectively light a fire under the New Zealand Government to ratify the NHP Bill into law and, in the process, shift the natural health sector away from practitioners and towards exporters and multi-nationals.

Legislating (and enforcing) on behalf of corporate interests

Wresting control of the natural health market from natural health providers has long been a focus of (primarily pharmaceutical) multinationals, lobbyists and - consequently - governments. Never was it more palpable than when the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) took down the largest supplement manufacturer in Australia, Pan Pharmaceuticals, in April 2003. In January 2003, the TGA moved to recall Travacalm, Pan's over-the-counter travel sickness tablet, after reports of adverse effects in some people following ingestion of the tablet, leading to tests which found the product to be defective. After the January recall, Pan discovered a problem with one of its analysts whom the company claimed was responsible for the lapse in quality control over the defective product. The company dismissed the analyst and set out to correct the problem with its recalled product, while continuing to manufacture its other unaffected product lines. In short, Pan followed the normal procedure for a recall, a commonplace occurrence even in the multinational pharmaceutical industry. Less than three months later, on 29 April, the TGA ordered Pan to suspend it's operations for six months and ordered a Class 1 recall of 219 products made by Pan, representing over 75% of the complementary medicine market in Australia. Class 1 recalls are only issued when it has been shown that a product is likely to cause serious, irreversible health damage or death. Hundreds of retail stores went bust as their shelves were emptied. Widespread panic ensued as the public awaited news of test results on all of Pan's products. News which never came.... Pan Pharmaceuticals went into liquidation in 2005, owing about A$180m. The company had earlier pled guilty to 24 charges relating to defective medication, for which it was fined A$3m. In 2008, the Federal Government was ordered to pay former Pan Pharmaceuticals CEO Jim Selim A$50m for acting outside its power and with vengeance. No large multinational drug company has ever been shut down by a government regulator after one of its products has been recalled, even if deaths have occurred as a result of using the drug or chemical. For the full story on the war against natural health providers in Australia click here:

Natural medicine is seen as a cash cow ripe for milking

New Zealanders are far more discerning about taking prescription drugs now than they were in the past and are more likely to ask their doctor about possible side-effects. People are also more conscientious about avoiding chemicals in their water, food supply and medicines, and more willing to try home remedies for ailments, or visit local naturopaths/herbalists before rushing off to the doctor. Pharmacies now enthusiastically sell a wide range of natural health products, and actively encourage customers to engage in complementary approaches, such as taking probiotics with antibiotics. As public awareness grows (and crystallizes into demand), so too does the value proposition offered by natural health products. NHPs now comprise more than 20% of pharmacy sales in New Zealand, and this market segment now represents the most valuable growth and profitability pathway for their sector. It is the view of the NHA that the commodification of natural health will reduce the quality, efficacy, affordability and accessibility of natural health products for all New Zealanders. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the natural health sector, and ensuring natural health remains a right for us all. Thank you for joining us on this journey and we wish you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Year's!

Keep an eye out for our next newsletter, due out in February. In meantime follow us on our Facebook page for updates.

If you're interested in joining the Natural Health Alliance membership, send us an email today at Help us ensure high-quality, safe and affordable natural health products remain accessible to all New Zealanders.

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