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"The changing natures of natural medicines, as seen by regulatory scientists" - Dr Jennifer Cuffe (University of Exeter)

Egenis seminar

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date12 January 2015
Time15:00 to 16:30
PlaceByrne House

Please note change in date, was 14/1/14. Nature, as Raymond Williams remarked, “is perhaps the most complex word in the language” (1976). Nevertheless, the word (as a qualifier) was used, in Canada, to create a new legal category of commodified medicines: that of ‘natural health products.’ With this change in law, regulatory scientists were mandated to segregate out medicines that would be regulated as natural health products, from those that would continue to be regulated as drugs. Needless to say, which medicines should be considered natural for the purposes of regulation was not always self-evident.

This paper takes an anthropological and historical approach to the question of how Canadian regulatory scientists have approached the “nature” in drugs. It takes an anthropological approach by describing how regulatory scientists approached their task of segregating out natural medicines when the new regulations were enacted. It then provides an overview of how plant-based medicines have been marketed and regulated through the twentieth century, to explain how the regulators were able to approach their classificatory task as they did.  I argue that the current safety of natural health products is to some extent a self-fulfilling prophecy, because government officials, formally and informally, have progressively made the idea of a risky natural health product (according to regulatory practice) into an oxymoron since the early 1900s.


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