Natural Health Products include vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional medicines such as traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics, prebiotics (e.g., fiber) and other products such as enzymes, amino acids and fatty acids. In 2010, a survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid showed that 73% of Canadians regularly take natural health products (NHPs).
Natural health products must be safe to use as over-the-counter products and do not need a prescription. Natural Health Products are regulated by Health Canada’s Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD), formed in 2004. The NNHPD’s creation ensured that Canadians have ready access to safe and effective, high quality, natural health products (NHPs), respecting the freedom of choice and philosophical and cultural diversity.
In order for a NHP to be legally sold in Canada, all NHPs must have a product licence. Over 70,000 NHPs have been authorized for sale in Canada since 2004.
You can identify an authorized product by its label. The label will contain the letters “NPN” followed by an 8 digit number. If a natural health product does not have this 8 digit number, the quality and safety of the product has not been reviewed by the NNHPD and the product has not been authorized for sale by Health Canada.
As part of licensing, some companies may need clinical studies to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness/efficacy of the NHP. These clinical studies are also overseen by Health Canada as well as an independent research ethics board (REB).