Source: Natural Hope Herbals
In a move that favors the pharmaceutical industry’s interests over natural healthcare traditions, New Zealand’s parliament passed the Therapeutic Products Bill on 19 July 2023.
“The passing of the Therapeutic Products Bill marks the most significant change to the regulation of medicines, medical devices and natural health products in nearly 40 years,” New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said.
This move is part of New Zealand’s plan to ensure the safety of healthcare delivery products and boost both imports and exports. The new regulatory regime is expected to be flexible and align with international standards while maintaining the quality of regulation currently managed by the Ministry of Health.
Contrary to some reports on social media and in feedback from submitters on the Bill:
you will still be able to buy natural health products and you will not need a prescription
practitioners will still be able to deliver care to their clients.
there is no list of prohibited ingredients in the Bill, and
there is no proposal to ban common herbs and spices used in cooking.”
The Bill is not intended to stop people buying NHPs, unless there is robust scientific evidence to justify restricting it (eg, certain parts of a plant may be toxic while other parts are fine, or the concentration of a product is 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 recognised NHP ingredients would be developed as secondary legislation, in consultation with stakeholders.
Though touted as a step towards modernizing health product regulation, the Therapeutic Products Bill has come under heavy criticism for its implications on natural health products (NHPs), which many New Zealanders utilize for their health and wellness.
The country’s government insists that the legislation will foster 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.
Proposed amendments to the Bill would exempt small-scale NHP producers, but product authorization would still be required for imported NHPs.
“Under proposed changes to the Bill, small-scale NHP manufacturers will not need to obtain a product authorisation or manufacturing licence from the new regulator where their products are made and supplied in-person to customers in New Zealand.”
While small-scale manufacturers are exempt from some of the new regulatory measures, New Zealand’s government claimed there is still a demand to regulate these products due to the scale of distribution and the risk they pose.
“There is still a need to regulate NHPs as they are not risk-free. The scale of distribution combined with the risk posed by a NHP and its production are important factors in weighting up risk. The overall risk profile of distributing certain NHPs made in small amounts is sufficient to not warrant the regulatory requirements needed for most other NHPs. We have assessed other products in a similar way, such as low concentration NHPs, or those made by a practitioner as part of a consultation for a client,” according to the Ministry of Health’s website.
Under this controversial legislation, natural health products, including herbal remedies, traditional Māori remedies, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathic remedies, and vitamin and mineral supplements, could be subject to more strict regulation.
Though the Government has reassured citizens that they will still be able to buy natural health products without a prescription, it’s hard not to see this move as a deliberate constraint on their freedom of choice.
This regulation also could seriously hamper the production and consumption of such products, which are commonly perceived as healthier, more organic alternatives to synthetic pharmaceuticals.
Critics view this as a veiled attempt to assert control over a sector traditionally dominated by small businesses, possibly opening the market to bigger pharmaceutical companies. This alleged tilt towards big pharma paints a disheartening picture of the government seemingly prioritizing industry interests over its citizens’ healthcare choices.
The New Zealand government is declaring that it knows better than its citizens about what is good for them, which is a dangerous precedent. This paternalistic view strips away individuals’ autonomy and the right to make informed choices about their health and wellness.
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