But unlike mainstream health practitioners, who are under strict guidelines and legal standards of care, practitioners of many types of alternative and complementary medicine are under no such strict legal imperatives.

Some science-oriented critics of alternative medicine and natural health products are concerned that Health Canada has become too lenient in approving natural health products that may hold little medicinal benefits while having the potential for severe health risks. They argue that natural health products and certification boards for alternative practitioners are held to less stringent standards than traditional medicine, and as such are at a far greater risk for causing health problems, and potentially even death, to those that use them. According to an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, many health professional and regulatory bodies believe that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s draft guidelines for alternative therapies in medical practice “apply a lower evidentiary bar for measuring the safety and efficacy of complementary medicine therapies and are effectively asking physicians to counsel patients to undertake unscientific health practices.” Instead of being beholden to regulated scientific trials, which are large-scale, placebo-controlled, and peer-reviewed, many natural health products are approved with only small studies with no placebo comparison, and many of these products have found to be ineffective in more scientifically controlled studies.

However, Health Canada has stated that the standards for natural health products and other forms of alternative medicine should, in fact, be lower, given that since the products are already low-risk in nature, and they “should be regulated as such.” As for alternative health practitioners, most industries, including osteopathy, chiropractor, naturopathy, homeopathy, and massage therapy are self-regulated through various professional associations and licensing boards.

If you believe you have suffered health problems due to ineffective or unsafe natural or alternative medicines, you may be entitled to compensation. We at Mackesy Smye would be happy to offer advice and assistance for your claim against the manufacturers of natural health products or the practitioners of alternative medicines that have caused you or your family member pain, illness or injury.