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Health Canada…..Public interest or corporate interest?

Canada controlled by corporations?

     In the last few months some very strange decisions have been made by Health Canada. They are so quick to remove extremely safe products from the health food market like nattokinase, serrapeptase and possibly even digestive enzymes and yet they approve “energy shot” drinks which have been associated recently with a number of deaths.

They approve the use of nicotine for quitting smoking in products such as Nicorette but they strongly disapprove another product called Vapur which may be superior to Nicorette but they refuse to test it.

They allow the sale of tobacco, a product that causes heart disease and lung cancer and gladly collect all the taxes associated with this product but refuse to decriminalize marijuana which has never ever been linked to even one death.

Energy Drinks

In the past month Health Canada has licensed more than twenty caffeine-laden “energy-shot” drinks at a time when the Food and Drug Administration of the United States is investigating reports linking one of the best known brands, 5-Hour Energy to a number of deaths.

Last February 4th was the final day for applications to receive an NPN number so that a product could be sold in health food stores or other retail outlets. A large number of products did not receive their number and will only be able to be sold until the end of 2013. The only requirement for approval is that they are safe for public consumption. Products like nattokinase, serrapeptase and digestive enzymes have a perfect track record of safety and yet they were not approved.

However, energy shot drinks which typically come in fist-sized bottles that contain as much as 200mg of synthetic caffeine have been approved even though 200mg represents half your total allowable uptake of caffeine per day. They are marketed as a natural way to stay alert and are featured near the cash register as impulse sales at convenience stores and gas stations.

So far the investigation by the United States Food and Drug has indicated that many of these energy drinks contained more than five times as much caffeine as was stated on the label. Others that were supposed to be natural and contained ginseng and taurine, also contained large amounts of caffeine that was not stated on the label of the container.

The companies that manufacture products sold in health food stores are not big multi- national conglomerates but the manufacturers of these energy drinks are huge corporations with mega bucks to spend to influence the people of Health Canada who make these decisions. The makers of Red Bull and Monster are huge and many teenagers are using these drinks not just for their energy but they are mixing them with alcohol, allowing them to be highly energized while drunk, a dangerous combination.

So far the FDA have evidence of the deaths of thirteen people who died over the past year after drinking 5-Hour Energy, a drink that is sold right here in Canada. How many people do you think have died from the ingestion of nattokinase, a natural health product that was sold here over the last four years? The answer is none. Yet Health Canada records show 7 serious reactions linked to the 5-Hour Energy Shot in the past two years.

Of course Living Essentials LLC, the company that distributes 5-Hour Energy denies all the reports.

As far back as the fall of 2011, Health Canada said it would limit the caffeine to 180 mg for single-serving portions but they ignored their own advice and because of the new labelling rules they are regulated as “natural health products,” even though the total contents are synthetic without one natural ingredient.

The twenty companies that were approved had previously sold their drink using an “exemption number” but suddenly with the deadline of February 4, 2013, they all received approval. Of course our Health Minister Leona Agliuklaq refused to give a reason for these decisions. I believe that we are the only civilized country in the world in which our Health Minister does not even have a university education. (She actually has a journalism diploma from a community college).

A recent test of 5-Hour Energy sold in Ottawa stores showed that although the labels indicated 190 mg of caffeine, the majority tested at a minimum of 220 mg, almost 20 per cent higher than the legal limit set by Health Canada.

At least one of the manufacturers, a Montreal-based company that makes a drink called “Rage” puts warnings on its labels that it should not be consumed by children or pregnant or breast-feeding women. However they only did this after they raised the caffeine levels.

E-Cigarettes

Smoking cigarettes is actually more addicting than heroin or even crack cocaine. It is extremely difficult to quit but because of the health benefits, those who wish to quit should be able to use whatever they need. No way says Health Canada. You can use Nicorette in any of its forms which include the patch, gum, lozenge, vapour inhaler and even sublingual spray. All of these products contain nicotine which satisfies the smoker’s craving for nicotine after they quit. However, the e-cigarettes which also contain flavoured nicotine are banned by Health Canada.

E-cigarettes are small cigarette shaped canisters that are used to simulate the sensation of smoking. Batteries within the canisters heat up fluid-filled cartridges which then give off a vapour that from a distance resembles smoke.  Some of the cartridges are filled with flavoured liquids, cherry or menthol for example. Others may have nicotine added to the flavoured liquid.

Health Canada says e-cigarettes containing nicotine are not legal in this country. They also stipulate that manufacturers allowed to sell e-cigarettes cannot make health claims that their product could be used as a smoking-cessation tool. This makes most people who want to try this product either go to the United Sates or buy the product on line. The bestselling e-cigarette is marketed under the name Vapur.

On the other hand, Merrell Dow, the manufacturers of Nicorette are allowed to sell all their nicotine replacement products as smoking-cessation tools. They also have a vapour but it does not have batteries or produce smoke. They even have a nicotine mouth spray. Got an urge for a cigarette, inhale a spray.

Once again we are faced with separate regulations depending upon whom you are. The huge multi-national pharmaceutical company, Merrell Dow, can sell all the nicotine products they want. However if anybody else wants to sell a nicotine product, Health Canada says that nicotine is bad for you and you should be banned from ingesting it.

To give you an idea how bad nicotine is for you, there have been some great results with Alzheimer’s patients who have shown vast improvements in their cognitive skills when they use the nicotine patch. The fact is that although the nicotine in cigarettes is the cause of the addiction, it is not the cause of all the lung cancers and heart disease. It is all the other chemicals in cigarettes such as tar, cyanide, ammonia and even the carbon monoxide produced when you inhale a puff.

Smokers are more comfortable using e-cigarettes because they actually produce a vapour that can be inhaled into their lungs. That way the nicotine is delivered but not any tar or any other chemicals. Also there is no odour from this vapour so they can be smoked in the car or in the house. However, the makers of Nicorette have far more influence in Canada than they have in the open market United States. They send their representatives to Ottawa and tell Health Canada about all the research and jobs they create in Canada and of course if they have any opposition they may have to move those jobs and that research to another country.  Most of the multi-national pharmaceutical companies are constantly threatening Canada in order to have their way in this country.

To get these e-cigarettes approved they need to be analyzed and manufactured in a particular way so that the smoker knows exactly how much nicotine is being inhaled with each puff. (All Nicorette products are carefully labelled showing how much nicotine is delivered). The e-cigarettes are very popular and have received a lot of publicity from Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio, two famous movie stars who use them.

Health Canada’s argument against the use of e-cigarettes is that they deliver nicotine which is an extremely addictive drug and a teenager who starts smoking may remain addicted for 50 years and who knows the long-term side-effects. That would be a valid argument if they did not already allow Merrill Down to sell their Nicorette to anybody who asks without even a prescription from your physician.

Health Canada is supported in their argument by Jeffrey Wigland, the former tobacco industry scientist who famously revealed Big Tobacco’s manipulation of cigarettes to make them more addictive. If you ever saw the movie The Insider, staring Russell Crowe, it was about Jeffrey Wigland.

Mr. Wiglands’s concern is whether the companies that produce aids to quit smoking are really trying to help people get off cigarettes or are they trying to get people addicted to another nicotine substance for the rest of their life.

David Hammond, a tobacco control researcher at the University of Waterloo just completed a study of Canadian teens and young adults in which he found that one-third of young smokers had tried e-cigarettes and 6 per cent of non-smokers had tried them also. These are huge numbers considering the fact they are illegal in this country.

There are still five million smokers left in this country whose health is rapidly deteriorating and whose treatment keeps increasing our health care costs. Every means available should be used to help people quit smoking. And yet our highly educated Health Minister with her two year diploma in journalism has decided that the only way to stop people from smoking is to put ugly scary pictures of diseased organs on the packages, while letting Health Canada be influenced by powerful corporations with huge financial resources.

Wouldn’t it be great if one day we actually appointed a Health Minister with a medical background?

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