In October 2000, the Federal Court of Appeal issued the latest ruling in the ongoing dispute over the validity of Glaxo's Canadian patent for AZT, upholding Glaxo's patent but narrowing the scope of the claims it could validly make. The decision is now on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Pharmaceutical promotion in Canada is controlled by two codes: a voluntary one developed by the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board dealing mostly with printed promotional material, and one from the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada covering other forms of promotion. This article looks at enforcement of the provisions of these codes and at areas in which they are deficient. One of the major weaknesses in both codes is their lack of effective sanctions for companies that violate their provisions. Strong codes are necessary because many physicians rely heavily on promotional material for their source of prescribing information. However, voluntary codes or codes developed by the industry are inherently weak and lack effective enforcement mechanisms. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently very active in curtailing promotional excesses, government control is not the solution since regulatory action will depend on the ideological position of the head of the regulatory body and/or the party in power. An independent body backed by legislative authority is preferable.
The use of natural health products, such as vitamins, minerals, and herbs, by Canadians has been increasing with time. As a result of consumer concern about the quality of these products, the Canadian Department of Health created the Natural Health Products (NHP) Regulations. The new Canadian regulations raise questions about whether and how the NHP industry will be able to comply and what impact they will have on market structure. The objectives of this study were to explore who in the interview sample is complying with Canada's new NHP Regulations (i.e., submitted product licensing applications on time); and explore the factors that affect regulatory compliance.
Twenty key informant interviews were conducted with employees of the NHP industry. The structured interviews focused on the level of satisfaction with the Regulations and perceptions of compliance and non-compliance. Interviews were tape recorded and then transcribed verbatim. Data were independently coded, using qualitative content analysis. Team meetings were held after every three to four interviews to discuss emerging themes.
The major finding of this study is that most (17 out of 20) companies interviewed were beginning to comply with the new regulatory regime. The factors that contribute to likelihood of regulatory compliance were: perceptions and knowledge of the regulations and business size.
The Canadian case can be instructive for other countries seeking to implement regulatory standards for natural health products. An unintended consequence of the Canadian NHP regulations may be the exit of smaller firms, leading to industry consolidation.
Before there can be acceptance of natural health products (NHPs) or "phytomedicines" by the Western medical community, questions related to active ingredients, mechanisms of action, toxicology, and drug interactions will need to be satisfactorily addressed. Since NHPs are generally manufactured from highly variable raw materials, identifying the therapeutically active ingredients can be challenging. Standardization according to all known bioactive components is critical to ensure consistent pharmacological and clinical results. CV Technologies, Inc. has made great strides in resolving these challenges through the patented technology, ChemBioPrint. During early ChemBioPrint product development, the optimal active components of a natural extract are identified and characterized chemically (chemical fingerprinting) and pharmacologically through a variety of activity assays (biological fingerprinting). Subsequent manufacturing steps ensure each batch is standardized accordingly and has consistent composition and efficacy. Case studies will be presented on two commercially available ChemBioPrint products: COLD-fX (an immune-modulator) and REMEMBER-fX (a neuro-modulator). Unique and important structure-function relationships exist between the major classes of bioactive molecules from the shared source material of these two products, Panax quinquefolius. Through numerous published and ongoing clinical trials and pharmacological studies, these ChemBioPrint products have been shown to be consistent, safe and effective. The future directions of NHP research will be discussed, including the requirements for accurate reporting of study results related to ingredient and standardization descriptions.