Physician Lloyd Oppel has an article in the British Columbia Medical Journal on the one significant failure of Heath Canada to protect the health of Canadians.
Vaccines stand out as one of the most cost-effective health interventions in modern medicine. It is estimated that immunizations have saved more Canadian lives over the last 50 years than any other health program.1 Vaccines are credited with reducing the death rate from infections in Canada to only 5%—a far cry from the situation 100 years ago when infectious diseases were the leading cause of death.
Although real vaccines use low doses of part of an infectious agent to prevent disease, homeopathic preparations typically are diluted beyond the point where a single molecule remains.
Remarkably, at the same time as Health Canada focuses on influenza education, flu shots, and other proven prevention measures, that same body has licensed 10 products with a homeopathic preparation called “influenzinum.” According to providers, influenzinum is for “preventing the flu and its related symptoms.”
Homeopathic vaccines are available for other infectious diseases as well. Health Canada licenses homeopathic preparations purported to prevent polio, measles, and pertussis.
Not only are these products unproven, the chemistry involved in the dilution process indicates that they cannot work. Homoeopaths explain this away with such nonsense claims as this, or some variation:
It appears that they function on an energetic level to stimulate the body to heal itself more efficiently.
Back to Oppel:
Health Canada continues to assure Canadians that it tests products for safety and efficacy before allowing them to enter the market. All approved homeopathic products are given a DIN-HM number. The website states, “A NPN or DIN-HM means that the product has been authorized for sale in Canada and is safe and effective when used according the instructions on the label.”
Yes, Homoeopathic treatments are safe. Safe because there is no active ingredient, although quality control is not always of the highest standard. It is the term effective that is the most deceptive. These products are not required to undergo the same safety and efficacy verification as actual drugs. Heath Canada approves them on the basis of the claims made by such multinational corporation as Boiron and others, not on published studies. There are, of course, well known examples of harmful pharmaceuticals being licensed for use, but in time, these are removed from the market. The amorphous claims of many natural products precludes this correction.
On their website, Health Canada warns about the risks of these natural products. These are larger issues than homoeopathy, but without the possibility of effects from a properly manufactured product.
While natural health products are generally safe and have fewer side effects than medications, they are not risk free. Risks include:
- manufacturing problems (like contamination, incorrect ingredients or dosage)
- unproven claims, which can lead people to use the wrong products for serious conditions or to delay proper treatment
- not enough information for people to make an informed choice (like incorrect instructions or no warnings that a product may not be suitable for certain groups)
- interaction with prescription drugs or other natural health products
- unwanted side effects, like allergic reactions
The use of Nosodes is not a trivial problem. When the vaccination level in a population drops below the level required for herd immunity is not reached and preventable diseases are able to spread throughout the community.
Experts estimate that herd immunity is achieved when 95% of a population has been immunized. Canadian immunization rates have fallen in recent years to levels well below this threshold. Canada’s Public Health Agency estimates that only 62% of 2-year-olds are up to date with their shots.
It is important to remember that this is not an issue exclusive to people who label and market themselves as homoeopaths. Naturopaths, sometimes considered the most credible of alt-med practitioners, are also largely homoeopaths.
A recent evaluation of the treatments advertised by Naturopaths in BC and Alberta found a strong reliance om Homoeopathy.
In Alberta, for example, homeopathy was the most common treatment advertised on the websites (94% of websites note this treatment) and the third most common in BC (79%).
It would be easy to blame the anti-science stance of the current government, but the Natural Health Product Regulations came into force in 2004 under the guidance of Pierre Pettigrew, the Liberal Minister responsible at the time.
It is these regulations that must be updated to reflect the reality of natural products and the lack of scientific evidence to support their use. The approval of Health Canada lends a totally undeserved credence to these products, and endangers the health of us all.