The government crackdown on Vitamin C

WHILE people were asleep, entertaining themselves, possibly with recreational substances, or discussing amendments to the National Drug Master Plan, which could deschedule marijuana, (in effect remove cannabis from the arena of drug prohibition and criminal justice, into the realm of harm reduction and public health), the Ministry of Health have been gazetting regulations.

These regulations will turn common vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and many complementary health products, into prescription medication. South Africans awoke, a day after Freedom Day, to discover that the Dept of Health, forever that scion of an ARV debacle under the Mbeki administration, had already accomplished the task, and had been busying themselves recalling thousands of complementary health products.

The story broke in Business Day, but has been covered on Medialternatives before here  and here. That there is a working system of regulation of foodstuffs, in particular pills and food supplements which make claims to improving health, is no surprise, what is shocking though, are the plethora of regulations, which I once again uncovered after trolling the Medicines Control Council website.

One gazetted amendment to the MEDICINES AND RELATED SUBSTANCES ACT, 1965 (ACT NO. 101 OF 1965) published on 28 October 2014, makes any product containing a vitamin or mineral which “exceeds the recommended dose” a medicine, and thus moves a foodstuff into the realm of prescription regulations, the proverbial pharmacopoeia.

Vitamin products “shall be subject to registration as Category A medicines as defined in Regulation 25(1) of the General Regulations promulgated under the Act, and more particularly, as Category A medicines falling under Pharmacological Classifications 22, 22.1, 22.1.1, 22.1.2, 22.1.3, 22.1.4, 22.1.5 and Pharmacological Classification 32 as defined in Regulation 25(2) of the said Regulations for vitamin and mineral oral preparations respectively.”

The last time I took a high dose of Vit C, i.e. ascorbic acid, the stuff found in oranges, thousands of times over the government recommended dose, was when I had flu, it really helped me. The ANC-led Government, don’t agree, and has thus gone from one extreme to the next. After punting home remedies instead of ARVs, it is now intent on closing down the “it’s just a foodstuff defense”,  a legal defense enjoyed by complementary health practitioners and manufacturers — thus tackling adults as if we are all children, via over-regulation of the market for complementary health products.

Which isn’t all that surprising since the authoritarian ANC regime long dispensed with trying to actually protect consumers as adults, instead, it punts socially constructed policies to its political children, as if they are scientific facts, without any empirical evidence and without giving consumers the benefit of the doubt, quite the opposite of their claims to welfare and solidarity with citizens and especially the poor.

So nothing new over here, just another iteration of the same quasi-scientific blather from government departments and ANC appointed cabinet Ministers, who claim to have the best interests of society at heart, but who fail miserably when reading the Constitution which really does protect the individual’s right to self-medicate — to ownership and control over the body.