For the past 12 years or so, the New Zealand government has sought to regulate natural health products and services, even though by their own admission, risk associated with the use of a natural health approach is minimal. In many countries around the world, post-Covid seems to be increasing governments’ appetite to curb/control any desire by people to take control over their own health.
New Zealand seems to be no different, disappointingly. A small country, once known for leading the way, being the first country to give women the vote, for making a stand against nuclear power, this little country seems to have lost its way.
From a health perspective, things have been going particularly badly in the last 3 years, just like in many western countries around the world. While many hailed New Zealand’s response to the pandemic as a great response, by closing its borders to the rest of the world in order to keep a virus out, it would be difficult to argue that it was an effective strategy.
It turns out it didn’t achieve much, since despite one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, the vast majority of the country has now had Covid and like many highly vaccinated countries, we are seeing an excess mortality rate (not Covid related) of significant proportions.
Like many countries, fear-mongering grew disproportionate, mandated vaccination programmes were introduced and a notable lack of public health messaging around keeping healthy became the new norm.
Then just before Christmas 2022, the New Zealand Government decided to introduce the Therapeutic Products Bill into parliament. Why does the timing matter? As a country, New Zealand tends to shut down from around mid-December until end of January for the summer break.
The bill had its first reading on 14 December 2022. The parliamentary process is such that you may make a submission on a bill within a defined timeframe after the first reading in parliament. They set the date for 15th February.
The process hardly shows any genuine democratic process by sneaking it in before the summer break, not providing people with enough time to mount much of a response…so we had to get to work. After some protesting to the right people by the right people, the government eventually agreed to delay the closing of submissions to 5 March – small win.
The timing had another interesting aspect to it. It was at the same time that the US government’s FDA was looking to enforce its Guidance Principles which threatens to ban homeopathic remedies in the USA. The Bill in New Zealand is aiming to align with bodies internationally or take direction from them and this will affect consumers of natural health products, including homeopathy.
As Alan Schmukler indicated in his editorial piece in December 2022, what happens in the USA may well set a precedent for other countries around the world. People must act if they want to continue to have the ability to choose how to take care of their own health.
To give some context to the perceived underhandedness: the Therapeutic Products Bill (TPB) was originally intended to update the outdated 1981 Medicines Act and the Dietary Supplements Regulation 1985. In 2018, the Government had received advice that when updating the TPB, it should not include any Natural Health Products.
Indeed, they made a promise to follow this advice, yet here we were in December 2022 and once again, they went against all advice and were happy to break yet another promise…all this to be seen to ‘align to international standards’. I imagine most readers, like me, will feel a chill running down their spine upon reading about ‘alignment to international standards’.
The Homeopathic Society of New Zealand formed a working group with others from the homeopathic sector including the Council of Homeopaths, homeopathic pharmacies, research, academic and professional homeopaths to understand the implications of this Bill.
It was long, arduous and went around in circles and clearly demonstrated that adding Natural Health Products was an afterthought. And worse, the rules and regulations associated with this bill have not been outlined yet. These will only be devised once the bill has been approved through parliament. How can you pass a bill without understanding the rules and regulations?
Some of the key issues that will affect homeopathy in this bill are:
- As natural health practitioners, homeopaths will only be able to provide remedies to clients they have a consultation with
- Homeopaths will no longer be able to send remedies to overseas clients unless they are normally residents of New Zealand
- Penalties for impermissible health benefit claim (as determined by the regulator) by an individual can result in a $200,000 fine or 5 years imprisonment
- The bill states that NHP cannot contain anything of human origin or from an animal covered in the rules (sheep and cows) – this impacts matridonal remedies, nosodes and sarcodes – the bill’s focus is on the origin of the remedy not the end result itself
- The bill covers medicines, medical devices, active pharmaceutical ingredients and natural health products – this is simply too broad to address the different approaches to disease management vs. health care management
- Homeopathy is included in the bill’s definition of natural health products (NHP)
- Homeopathy is not directly defined, but falls broadly under their definition of Low Concentration NHP, however tissue salts, homeobotanicals and flower essences would not classify as Low Concentration
- A license will be required to manufacture, import or export NHPs, including homeopathy – issues of compliance costs making the cost of remedies significantly more expensive
- One regulator to oversee every medicine, medical device, active pharmaceutical ingredient and every natural health product – how will one regulator have that breadth of knowledge or understanding – there is no clause to bind them to any expert advice – the regulator has the final say
- The bill allows the regulator to rely on decisions of a recognised entity, including: overseas regulator, overseas organisation, any other person or body that the Regulator is satisfied on reasonable grounds has knowledge of, and expertise in, a relevant subject matter.
In New Zealand a lot of attention is focused on Australia and in light of their openly anti-homeopathy stance, this last point can potentially prove problematic.
The end result of the bill would mean the disappearance of many small businesses – practitioners, manufacturers of natural health products – the business community in New Zealand generally is made up 99% by small businesses.
It will impact the viability of homeopathic pharmacies due to high compliance costs. This bill will restrict the use of a broad range of homeopathy, making it practically impossible for homeopaths to provide effective support to their clients.
The cost of natural health products will increase significantly due to the onerous compliance costs. Information available to consumers will be so restricted they will be unable to make an informed decision.
This bill will result in limited consumer choice. Not only does it have an adverse effect on the health of people, but what will be left will become quite unaffordable to the average person, once again causing significant inequity in health, so this impacts on everybody in New Zealand.
In terms of action, we put together a guidance document to help people put forward a written submission to the government. We sought advice on how to handle a verbal submission to Parliament (natural health practitioners and homeopaths don’t typically do this).
We encouraged people through all of our networks to put forward a submission in writing. We made contact with a major grassroots organisation in New Zealand to broadcast our concern from a homeopathic perspective. We recommended that people write to their Members of Parliament (MP) to tell them why this bill needs to remove Natural Health Products as a category.
As at the time of writing this article, if you live in New Zealand, it is not too late to write to your MP to educate them on the damage this bill will do. This is an election year – use it to influence the government.
Its all about Money NDA cost millions. Companies spend money to buy rules and regulations and to remove competition. No one should make claims like cure. Cure is not garaunteed