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In The News for May 25 : New rules for reporting reactions to natural health products

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 25 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
A paramedic is seen outside ambulances parked at the entrance to the emergency department at Richmond General Hospital, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. A new plan to force hospitals to report adverse effects of "natural health products" such as herbal remedies and supplements has come as a surprise to manufacturers, who say they were blindsided by the proposed change. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 25 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

A new plan to force hospitals to report adverse effects of "natural health products" such as herbal remedies and supplements has come as a surprise to manufacturers, who say they were blindsided by the proposed change.

The federal government included the plan in the 2023 budget bill, which is still making its way through the House of Commons.

It would see natural health products fall under the same category as pharmaceuticals when it comes to how they are monitored once they are on the market.

They would be incorporated into Vanessa's Law, which was passed in 2014 to improve the reporting of adverse health reactions. It was named after 15-year-old Vanessa Young, the daughter of a Conservative member of Parliament, who died in 2000 after her heart rate had been affected by medication that was prescribed by her doctor.

Putting natural health products under that framework would require hospitals to report on any unintended consequences associated with them, so that Health Canada can recall them or order fixes if necessary.

The provisions had been discussed before, said Aaron Skelton, president of the Canadian Health Food Association. But "there was nothing that would have indicated to industry that it was imminent," he said.

The debate about whether to include natural health products in Vanessa's Law when it was first introduced generated "quite the discussion" on Parliament Hill at the time, Sen. Judith Seidman, who sponsored the original bill in the Senate, told her colleagues at a recent committee hearing.

The government at the time decided against doing so.

Since then, several high-profile tragedies that saw parents and patients eschew conventional medicine in favour of natural remedies have prompted a renewed national conversation about the regulation of natural health products in Canada.

In 2021, the federal auditor general found that Health Canada fell short of making sure products were safe and effective, and that gaps in the monitoring of products on the market left consumers exposed to potential health and safety risks.


Also this ...

A Canadian researcher who co-led an international team's work to standardize criteria to diagnose concussion says the effort is aimed at providing equitable care for patients whose mild brain injury may go undetected.

Noah Silverberg, an associate psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, was among clinician scientists including emergency room doctors, neurosurgeons and pediatricians who replaced what he calls wildly inconsistent criteria.

Silverberg says a definition of what is also called mild traumatic brain injury was published in 1993 by the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, or the A-C-R-M, but is now outdated.

His paper outlining the new standardized criteria, co-authored by a neuropsychologist from the Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on behalf of the A-C-R-M, was published last week in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Silverberg says diagnosing concussions is tricky because symptoms can overlap with other conditions so health-care providers should confirm if and how a concussion occurred and rely more on the signs they see in someone who could be confused or can't remember how they were injured.

The new criteria incorporate a clinical exam that tests memory, concentration, balance and vision and also emphasize the need for awareness about concussion from intimate partner violence.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

COLUMBIA, S.C. _ A wave of newly approved abortion restrictions in the Southeastern United States has sent providers scrambling to reconfigure their services for a region with already severely limited access.

Pending bans at varying stages of pregnancy in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida _ states that had been holdouts providing wider access to the procedure _ are threatening to further delay abortions as appointments pile up and doctors work to understand the new limitations.

"There's really going to be no way for the whole abortion-providing ecosystem to manage it all,'' said Jenny Black, the president of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

Black, who oversees the organization's work in North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and parts of Virginia, said providers have had to quickly determine how to comply with the pending laws amid the "decimation of abortion access across the South.'' She expects new restrictions will compound the stressors on a system that was already seeing lengthy waiting periods in North Carolina driven by an influx of patients from Georgia and Tennessee.

Abortion is severely restricted in much of the South, including bans throughout pregnancy in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. In Georgia, it's allowed only in the first six weeks.

A report released in early April by the Society of Family Planning found rising numbers of abortions in states near those with the deepest restrictions but where abortion had remained largely legal. Florida and North Carolina were among the states with the biggest increases _ and among those where new restrictions are pending.

Most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy will be banned in North Carolina beginning July 1 and a six-week ban in Florida will take effect only if the state's current 15-week ban is upheld by the state Supreme Court.

South Carolina had also proven to be a key destination for people seeking abortions. Provisional state Health Department data showed larger numbers of out-of-state patients after the state's highest court overturned previous restrictions and left abortion legal through 22 weeks.

A new ban after around six weeks that awaits the South Carolina governor's signature will change that status, according to Caitlin Myers, an economics professor at Middlebury College. Myers, who studies the effects of reproductive policies, said limited evidence suggests about half of the people who want abortions won't be able to make the six-week threshold.

The action comes as many state legislatures convene for their first regular sessions since the U.S. Supreme Court struck federal abortion protections. Over the past two months, Republican officials in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida have pushed Virginia closer to being a regional outlier as a place with relatively permissive access.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

ANKARA, Turkey _ Two opposing visions for Turkey's future are on the ballot when voters return to the polls Sunday for a run-off presidential election that will decide between an increasingly authoritarian incumbent and a challenger who has pledged to restore democracy.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a populist and polarizing leader who has ruled Turkey for 20 years, is well positioned to win after falling just short of victory in the first round of balloting on May 14. He was the top finisher even as the country reels from sky-high inflation and the effects of a devastating earthquake in February.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey's pro-secular main opposition party and a six-party alliance, has campaigned on a promise to undo Erdogan's authoritarian tilt. The 74-year-old former bureaucrat has described the run-off as a referendum on the direction of the strategically located NATO country, which is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and has a key say over the alliance's expansion.

"This is an existential struggle. Turkey will either be dragged into darkness or light,'' Kilicdaroglu said. "This is more than an election. It has turned into a referendum.''

In a bid to sway nationalist voters ahead of Sunday's run-off, the normally soft-mannered Kilicdaroglu shifted gear and hardened his stance, vowing to send back millions of refugees if he is elected and rejecting any possibility of peace negotiations with Kurdish militants. 

The social democrat had previously said he planned to repatriate Syrians within two years, after establishing economic and safety conditions conducive to their return.

He has also repeatedly called on eight-million people who stayed away from the polls in the first round to cast votes in the make-or-break run-off.

Erdogan scored 49.5 per cent of the vote in the first round. Kilicdaroglu received 44.9 per cent.

At 69, Erdogan is already Turkey's longest-serving leader, having ruled over the country as prime minister since 2003 and as president since 2014. He could remain in power until 2028 if reelected.


On this day in 2020 ...

Video captured four Minneapolis police officers pinning an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, to the ground. In the video, Floyd can be heard pleading that he can't breathe, while white officer Derek Chauvin pressed a knee against his neck for several minutes. Floyd's death would eventually set off mass demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality across the U.S.


In entertainment ...

Canadian quiz show champ Mattea Roach made it to the finals, but couldn't clinch the "Jeopardy Masters'' title.

The Toronto-based writer and podcast host finished second on Wednesday's episode, with a combined score of $41,685.

James Holzhauer took home the prize, with a score of $43,795, while Matt Amodio came in third with $15,200.

The "Jeopardy'' spinoff pit six recent trivia titans against each other, with a different combination of competitors playing two "high-stakes games'' in each hour-long episode of the quarter- and semifinals.

The tournament came at a difficult time for Roach, who noted in Tuesday night's semifinal episode that their father died in the course of filming.

Roach said their dad was a big part of why they were able to compete on "Jeopardy'' at all, instilling in them a love of learning.

Roach thanked everyone on set who ensured they could go home to grieve instead of continuing to film on what they said was the hardest day of their life so far.


Did you see this?

EDMONTON _ The Calgary street pastor at the centre of an investigation that concluded Premier Danielle Smith interfered in Alberta's justice system says she is lying about the nature of their pivotal phone conversation.

Smith has said publicly her conversation with Artur Pawlowski was supposed to be about politics and not his criminal trial relating to a COVID-19 protest at Coutts, Alta., which blocked the United States border-crossing for more than two weeks.

However, Pawlowski told reporters Wednesday the discussion was never supposed to be about anything but his trial and about whether Smith would follow through on her public promise to pardon those charged with offences related to violating health restrictions.

Audio of the 11-minute call, which prompted an investigation by Alberta's ethics commissioner, focuses on charges Pawlowski was facing and his subsequent trial. There was no discussion of him in his role as then-leader of the fringe Independence Party of Alberta.

Smith is heard on the call offering to make inquiries on Pawlowski's case and report back.

"(The call) was always about the charges, from the very beginning. I had nothing really else to say,'' Pawlowski told reporters in a news conference Wednesday on the east steps of the legislature.

"This phone call was always about the same thing: when are you going to introduce what you promised, the amnesty bill for people like me and thousands of other Albertans.''

Smith has given different explanations for the phone call when a leaked copy of it was made public by the Opposition NDP in late March.

Smith initially said she discussed the case with Pawlowski in her role as a politician listening to a constituent. But as criticism mounted that she was interfering in the justice system, she changed the story on April 8 to suggest she was sandbagged by Pawlowski on what was supposed to be a call between political leaders.

Last week, Alberta's ethics commissioner concluded Smith interfered in the justice system by trying to convince her justice minister to make Pawlowski's case "go away.''


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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