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According to many opinion leaders in the Natural Health Product (NHP) industry, the public’s future access to natural health products (NHPs) and those tied to them by profession looks bleak in South Africa.  There is a systematic ‘shut-down’ of natural health products (NHP’s) and choice underway, and it needs to be stopped NOW!

We do not want to find ourselves in a situation like in Canada, where tens of thousands of safe, effective and good quality products were withdrawn either voluntarily from the market because of the high cost of regulatory compliance, or because they didn’t tick the boxes demanded by bureaucrats in the regulatory body, who can only think through the lens of an inappropriate pharmaceutical pre-market approval regimen.

There is no more time to be complacent as a company, health store or practitioner.  If you want to save this industry from ruin caused by unelected bureaucrats and those with vested interests in the eradication of over-the-counter natural health products, you must take action and responsibility for your sector now.  We are just three years away from the last category call-ups, and the gazetting of further restrictive regulatory amendments earmarked for immediate implementation at the end of this year.

What follows in this month’s opinion piece is an explanation of how the regulations will affect the different sectors involved with NHPs.

The TNHA will soon be extending its activities by activating new stakeholder associations for those affected across the natural health product value chain.

We will be launching these associations as focus groups from existing and new members who would like to belong to an association which will represent their interests and vigorously oppose the regulations for NHPs, which are unconstitutional, irrational and inappropriate.

The five sector groups will include, manufacturers, raw ingredient suppliers, retailers, practitioners and the public.


They will be founded as branches of the TNHA, working in unison to analyse, research and timorously respond to regulatory threats, and lobby for new legislation for the industry, by the industry and of the industry.

All affected parties are encouraged to join these associations so that we can present a united front, calling for the dismantlement of the current regulations and propose a new directorate for natural health products, separate from the Medicines Control Council.  We are currently drafting a new Bill for Traditional & Natural Health Products, similar to one being currently adopted in the New Zealand parliament, which will place African Traditional Medicines and NHPs outside the jurisdiction of the MCC, and which will allow them to be regulated by an autonomous Directorate in the Department of Health.

A leading local political party has expressed interest in sponsoring and proposing such a Bill.  Persons or companies with vested interests in the pharmaceutical industry and the manufacture of pharmaceutical drugs will be precluded from joining these new associations. In the last decade we have witnessed how large multinational pharmaceutical companies have gained a foothold in national health product associations across the globe and gradually steered these organizations towards accepting and adopting pharmaceutical regulations for NHPs.  This has significantly weakened the genuine NHP sector, and allowed regulators to adopt laws with built in ‘regulatory creep’, eventually strangling the lifeblood out of the innovative, small and medium sized companies which are committed to keeping their business 100% natural.

The TNHA currently represents 176 small and medium sized NHP manufacturers in South Africa, who unanimously reject the current pharmaceutical regulatory regime for NHPs. Through the establishment of a new trade association for real NHP manufacturers, importers and distributors, members will be able steer their own course and have their voices heard, plus utilise our legal counsel to challenge the status quo.

Soon after the establishment of each sector-based association, interim leaders will be nominated from among the association’s membership. One person from the leadership of each sector-based association will be co-opted onto the TNHA Executive Committee, so that there will be fair representation on the TNHA central governing body.

These new arms of the TNHA will be self-funding. Up until now, membership with the TNHA has been free. Generous donations and sponsorship has keep us strong, but in order to expand our reach and have the resources to effectively fund lobbying and litigation costs, cost recovery in the form of reasonable annual membership fees will be levied.

More information on these developments will follow shortly.  If you are already a member of the TNHA, you will be contacted and invited to join your new sector-based association. We urge lend you shoulder to push the wheel by sponsoring our efforts as the TNHA, and/or to volunteer you time to the cause by taking up a leadership position.

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