If you’re a supplement company selling products in Canada, then get ready for big changes! These changes will cause widespread layoffs and millions of dollars in losses. Ya see, Canada’s pharmacy regulators have begun urging pharmacists to stop selling unlicensed natural remedies! The order affects herbal treatments, multi-vitamins and other products. The National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) says pharmacists cannot be assured the products are safe until they are granted a government licence, and should not sell them in those circumstances. “Pharmacists are obliged to hold the health and safety of the public or patient as their first and foremost consideration,” said the association’s recently issued position statement. Since a massive proportion of supplements are sold in either health-food stores, grocery stores or drug stores, this change will be devastating to some companies.
“We are talking about job loss, we are talking about a lot of income loss, we are talking about product stuck in warehouses that cannot be sold,” Jean-Yves Dionne, a spokesman for the Canadian Health Food Association, said in an interview. A statement issued by the association calls the directive self-serving and contrary to federal government policy. “It has taken a sledge hammer to a finishing nail,” the group said. “It will create confusion for consumers. It is the wrong thing to do.”
So What’s Next?
It’s now up to the individual provinces to implement the directive or hold off. The Ontario and Quebec colleges have already pressed pharmacists to not buy or order any more of the affected products and to remove unlicensed product from shelves. Since these are the two provinces that make up more than 50% of all supplement sales in Canada, this is devastating news! If this spreads nationwide, supplement distributors in Canada that have become very dependent on drug channel sales will be in serious trouble. They will need to take the overabundance of inventory and begin dumping it into the independent health-food channel at a deeply discounted price just to get rid of it. US companies that have chosen to not use distributors and sell direct to drug stores (in an effort to save money of course) will now be forced off these store shelves and owners will be stuck with a ton of inventory! Of course, they’ll scramble to partner up with distributors so that they can dump their products at a rock-bottom price into the independent health food store channel. What does this mean to supplement users? The price of supplements normally found in drug stores should be going way down!
Where Did This Mess All Start?
Health Canada’s launched a new “natural-health products” regime in 2004 in an effort to clean up the industry. To sell supplements under this regime, you simply had to fill out an application and provide substantiation for the claims you wished to make with the product. The “loophole” came when manufacturers realized that they could continue selling their products, as long as they had at “applied for” approval. If too many applications came in (which they did), the government employees would be backlogged in paperwork and not able to get to newer applications! The department has issued about 18,000 natural-health licenses, while at least 10,000 products are still waiting for certification!
More info: Nationalpost.com