Source: Natural Hope Herbs
In a move that puts the interests of the pharmaceutical industry ahead of natural health care traditions, New Zealand’s parliament passed the Therapeutic Products Bill on 19 July 2023.
“The passage of the Therapeutic Products Bill marks the most significant change to regulation of drugs, medical devices and natural health products in almost 40 years,” New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said.
The move is part of New Zealand’s plan to ensure the safety of healthcare delivery products and increase imports and exports. The new regulatory regime is expected to be flexible and aligned with international standards while maintaining the quality of regulations currently managed by the Ministry of Health.
Contrary to some reports on social media and feedback from bill senders:
You can still buy natural health products and you don’t need a prescription, practitioners can still provide care to their clients. there is no list of prohibited ingredients in the bill, and there is no suggestion to ban herbs and spices commonly used in cooking.”
This bill is not intended to stop people from buying NHP, unless there is strong scientific evidence to justify that restriction (for example, certain parts of a plant may be toxic while other parts are fine, or product concentrations are too risky to be available for general sale).
The bill does not have a proposed list of prohibited or restricted herbal ingredients in it. If the bill is passed, a list of recognized NHP materials will be developed as secondary legislation, in consultation with stakeholders.
Although hailed as a step towards modernizing health product regulation, the Therapeutic Products Bill has come under heavy criticism for its implications for natural health products (NHP), which many New Zealanders use for their health and well-being.
The country’s government insists that the law will encourage innovation while aligning with international standards.
The potential implications of this decision could disproportionately impact NHP manufacturers, practitioners, and most importantly, consumers who have trusted these products for generations.
The proposed amendments to the bill would exempt small-scale NHP producers, but product authorization is still required for imported NHP.
“Under the proposed changes to the bill, small-scale NHP manufacturers will not need to obtain product authorizations or manufacturing licenses from the new regulator where their products are manufactured and supplied directly to customers in New Zealand.”
While small-scale manufacturers are exempt from some of the new regulations, the New Zealand government claims there is still demand to regulate these products because of the scale of distribution and the risks involved.
“There is still a need to regulate NHPs because they are not risk free. The scale of distribution combined with the risks posed by NHPs and their production are important factors in weighing the risks. The overall risk profile of the distribution of certain NHPs made up is small enough to not warrant the necessary regulatory requirements for most other NHPs. We have assessed other products in a similar way, such as low concentration NHP, or products made by practitioners as part of consultations for clients,” according to the Ministry of Health. website.
Under this controversial law, natural health products, including herbal remedies, traditional Māori medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathic remedies and vitamin and mineral supplements, may be subject to stricter regulations.
Although the Government has assured citizens that they can still purchase natural health products without a prescription, it is hard not to see this move as a deliberate curtailment of their freedom of choice.
These regulations can also seriously hinder the production and consumption of these products, which are usually considered healthier and more organic alternatives to synthetic pharmaceuticals.
Critics see this as a veiled attempt to assert control over a sector traditionally dominated by small businesses, possibly opening up the market to larger pharmaceutical companies. This alleged slant toward big pharmaceuticals paints a dismal picture of a government that appears to be prioritizing industry interests over its citizens’ health care choices.
The New Zealand government maintains that it knows better than its citizens what is good for them, which is setting a dangerous precedent. This paternalistic view deprives individuals of autonomy and the right to make informed choices about their health and well-being.