Should Disease Prevention Be Tax Deductible?

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Dr. Zoltan P. Rona



“Hello Mr. Flaherty: In Canada, Natural Health Products (NHP’s) are regulated as drugs (not food) and fall within your definition of drugs that are needed to deal with illness, disease or disability. Further, NHP’s are often prescribed by MD’s (i.e. iron NHP’s are widely prescribed to treat anemia). Currently, your tax policy is discriminating against Natural drugs over Synthetic drugs. Hopefully, you can show some leadership and make the appropriate changes (either tax Synthetic drugs – or make Natural drugs HST exempt).  Respectfully,  Joe the taxpayer”

Despite repeated attempts to get a straight answer from the Finance Minister, none has so far been forthcoming. The letter was written several months ago.

Tax Department Biased Against Natural Health Products and Practitioners

The tax laws in Canada allow an individual to claim expenses for any medications prescribed by a medical doctor. But if that same doctor prescribes natural remedies like B complex, vitamin C, or a long list of other NHPs, the claims for these items are most often refused by the tax department. Whether the product carries an NHP number (NPN) is irrelevant. The claim is refused. Similarly, anything prescribed by a naturopath, chiropractor, or homeopath is also rejected by the tax department.

The typical response from the Canadian tax department to people attempting to claim vitamin and mineral supplements as medical expense deductions for income taxes is:
“The expenses you claimed do not qualify for the medical expense tax credit. To be eligible for this claim, drugs, in addition to being prescribed by a licensed practitioner, require entry in a prescription registry by a licensed pharmacist. Herbs, minerals, vitamins and naturopathic supplements are not eligible for this claim.”

In other words, if you get a prescription for iron from a licensed medical doctor and you get it filled by a licensed pharmacist, it’s accepted as a tax exemption. If you purchase the same iron supplement on the recommendation of a naturopath from a health food store, it doesn’t qualify as a tax exemption. It doesn’t matter if it’s the exact same iron supplement. This is obviously discrimination that favours the medical system and pharmacies over natural health care practitioners and health food stores.

In my practice, I’ve noticed that a few patients are successful in claiming deductions for NHPs. The majority, however, show me letters from the tax department that deny claims for any and all NHPs that I recommend. There is no adequate explanation for this other than government tax department error. In other words, the tax department allows some people to claim the deductions but the majority of the NHP deduction claims are denied.

At one time in the 1990s, some natural health products had DINs (Drug Identification Numbers) and were treated as if they were drugs. Some time after 2000, this designation was replaced by the NPN, and gone was the tax-exempt status. NHPs thus became considerably more expensive to the public and access to them was significantly limited.
This clearly shows bias against natural health products. Drugs, on the other hand, enjoy tax-exempt status and access is much more affordable. Even the most expensive of prescription drugs are covered by either Medicare or private insurance while NHPs are shunned by the same agencies.

Hyper-Regulation of Natural Health Products

In Canada, for an NHP to be sold in a health food store, pharmacy, or grocery store legally, it must comply with safety and efficacy studies. There must be proof of no toxicity and contamination and what is stated to be on the label must be in the capsule or tablet. When an NHP complies with these rules, it is given an NPN, which allows it to be sold legally in health food stores and pharmacies. The compliance to this entire process takes months for the manufacturer and is very costly, forcing NHP manufacturers in Canada to charge considerably more for their products. The public is thus deluded into thinking that this act somehow makes natural health products safer, yet there is no proof of this.

There are no such onerous regulations in the U.S., so American supplements come at a lower price. Just go online and check the prices for any nutritional supplement in the U.S. and compare it to the Canadian equivalent and you’ll find significant differences in the price for the same items.

The irony is that correctly prescribed and carefully monitored drugs are the 3rd leading cause of death in North America. For example, over 16,500 deaths are reported each year from one class of drugs known as NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Thousands die from blood thinners every year. A growing number of women are dying from blood clots caused by the birth control pill. The number one cause of liver transplants in North America is still acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning. On the other hand, there are zero reports of deaths due to any NHP year after year. So, why is it that NHPs are so hyper-regulated?

Despite these statistics, Health Canada prohibits the sale of 5000 IU vitamin D capsules due to some imagined fear of toxicity. In the U.S., high dose vitamin D capsules are freely available without prescription. Health Canada also prohibits the sale of the natural blood thinner known as nattokinase, which has a long safety record and has been available in the U.S. without prescription for over two decades. Once again, no reports have ever been recorded concerning toxicity for any of these products.

For this reason and because of lower costs, many Canadians shop for their nutritional supplements online from American web sites. Not only can Canadians legally purchase high dose vitamin D, Nattokinase, DHEA and other bio-identical hormones that they cannot get in Canada, they can get their CoQ10, vitamin C, B complex and numerous other NHPs from various American web sites at a fraction of the prices charged in Canada.

What this means is that the Canadian government, through their bias against NHPs, chases millions of dollars out of Canada into American hands and penalizes Canadian manufacturers as well as the Canadian public. Inadvertently, Canadian jobs are lost and the health care system suffers as a result of more people taking dangerous drugs as opposed to safe and effective NHPs. The drug industry is artificially protected in all this since, through government support, they have a virtual monopoly within the health care system.

Class Action Lawsuit Launched Against Health Canada

As of January of this year, Health Canada has decided to enforce their NPN regulations more strictly. What this means is that any supplement sold anywhere without an NPN gets taken off the shelf. The first to go were the Hanna Kroeger supplements, a long time mainstay of health food stores in Canada. It’s only a matter of time before more products are eliminated by Health Canada.

Fuelled by growing discontent, a group of Canadians registered a class action lawsuit against Health Canada in January 2014.  Here’s the statement that I received:
“The Class Action Lawsuit maintains that:
1)Dietary supplements and vitamins (“natural health products”) are safe. In the entire 50+ history of the health food industry in Canada, these innocuous products have caused zero fatalities.
2)Consumers are sufficiently protected from possible harm and fraud with respect to these products by the Food and Drugs Act, the Competition Act, Canadian Advertising Standards, and the Criminal Code. The Natural Health Product Regulations are unnecessary in that they do not provide additional protection to consumers.
3)The Natural Health Product Regulations and the NPN Licensing Scheme are ultra vires (unlawful) in that they contravene the Constitution Act, 1867. Health Canada does NOT have any legal authority to regulate health products, as such.
4)Health Canada has the right to restrict only those products that have been proven to have caused death or serious injury. In the absence of proven harm, dietary supplements and vitamins must be presumed to be safe (i.e., innocent until proven guilty). Health Canada has unlawfully reversed this onus, however, by insisting that suppliers prove their products “not unsafe” before being granted permission to sell them.

In conclusion, it seems the only way to fight back is to use the legal system. This is very expensive. The more reasonable alternative is to get involved in politics by writing letters of complaint to your local members of Parliament.
– In Ontario, 
contact your member of provincial Parliament (MPP) at:
– Federally, contact your member of Parliament (MP) at:
One issue to bring up with your local politicians is the fact that natural health products reduce health care costs. The statistics are now well documented (see: https://newhope360 .com/breaking-news/supplements-reduce-health-care-costs).  According to this new report: “If men and women, 55 years and older, with elevated cholesterol levels took psyllium dietary fiber at preventive intake levels daily, the cost savings for coronary heart disease could be almost $2.5 billion dollars a year, equating to just under $19.9 billion in cumulative net savings between 2013 and 2020. Similarly, if all women over 55 with osteoporosis took calcium and vitamin D at preventive intake levels daily, society could save $1.5 billion dollars a year, or just over $12 billion dollars between 2013 and 2020.”

Find out the position of various politicians on these issues by showing them this article. Vote the morons that agree with these oppressive policies out of office. Those that support a change in policy that, at the very least, puts NHPs on an equal footing with pharmaceuticals with respect to Medicare coverage and tax exemption status should be supported. Unless we act in this way, the oppression and bias against natural health care will continue.


• For more information about the class action lawsuit, go to:
• Supplements Reduce Health Care Costs.
•  Not in Harmony – The HST’s Impact on Natural Health.
•  Looking for a Healthy Tax Break.
•  Decrease Taxes with Natural Health Expenses.

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