Health Canada swoops in on Vancouver pharmacy selling soy-based nattokinase

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      The owner of a Finlandia Natural Pharmacy & Health Centre is upset at Health Canada for ordering him to destroy $16,000 worth of a soy-based natural remedy. In an interview with the Georgia Straight in a West Broadway coffee shop, Harlan Lahti said that his store has been selling nattokinase, which thins the blood, for seven years without a single complaint of any bad side effects. And with no warning and no scientific evidence, the federal government demanded that he get rid of his inventory as part of a recall.

      “It’s unfair to the public and it’s unfair to business people,” Lahti said. “This is taking another tool away from people’s right to use less hazardous products to maintain their health. That’s really our whole agenda here: to give people choices.”

      On October 29, Health Canada posted a recall notice for two lots (CN 06358 and CN 06428) of 20-milligram capsules of BXD Nattokinase Q, which was distributed to two retail outlets. Health Canada stated on its website that this was “based on the totality of evidence available during the product licence assessment, that the ingredient, nattokinase, may result in injury to the health of a purchaser or consumer consumed at all doses”.

      Health Canada did not provide anyone to speak to the Straight by deadline and did not produce any studies of nattokinase from any peer-reviewed medical journals suggesting that the product created any danger to the public.

      According to the WebMD, a popular health website staffed by physicians, “Nattokinase is LIKELY SAFE when used in amounts commonly found in foods. Nattokinase is a natural component of the soy food natto. It has been routinely consumed in Japanese cultures for hundreds of years.”

      WebMD also states: “The safety of taking nattokinase in the larger medicinal amounts isn’t known. Taking two doses of a specific product containing nattokinase (Flite Tabs) seems to be safe. But it is not known if taking more than two doses is safe.”

      Lahti claimed that people are at higher risk of side effects by taking too many over-the-counter pain relievers than they are from consuming nattokinase. “Is it poisoning somebody?” he asked rhetorically. “No, it’s not poisoning anybody.”

      He said that naturopaths recommend nattokinase because it reduces the chance of blood clots, which lead to strokes and heart attacks. And he suggested that this remedy is creating competition for manufacturers of pharmaceutical-company blood thinners with more harmful side effects.

      Lahti is a licensed pharmacist who previously worked in hospital and in geriatric-care settings, where he saw how some prescription medications could have dangerous consequences. “If people want to take natural remedies along with their drugs, we counsel them whether this is advisable or not advisable,” he said. “That’s one of our specialties—to keep people safe if they want to make the choices they want to make.”

      Meanwhile, a natural-health entrepreneur who was hassled by Health Canada in the 1980s is speaking up in Lahti’s defence. Barrie Carlsen, president of Vitex Nutrition Ltd., told the Straight by phone that he had many legal battles with the federal regulators when he owned Quest Vitamins.

      “They caused severe damage to our company because one-quarter of our products were unilaterally seized without scientific validation for seizing them,” Carlsen said. “And all of those products that were seized are now quite legal, but they never made any compensation to us for the lost business.”

      He recalled when fish oils and amino acids were ordered off his shelves because they were suddenly classified as medications. “I’m sure there was pressure from the pharmaceutical industry because the active amino acids were directly competing with popular drugs,” Carlsen stated.

      He eventually won a court fight and likens Lahti’s troubles to the type of harassment he endured. “They can still declare anything a new drug,” Carlsen said. “The thing with nattokinase is a throwback to the 1980s when they were totally against anything that was natural and had some benefit.”

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      Mark Fornataro

      Nov 1, 2012 at 9:15am

      There was a time for many years that the amino acid trytophan was banned in Canada, though it is a safe product. It had its bad reputation for so long because of a contaminated batch from Japan; there again Health Canada was negligent in allowing for so long,this important, non-addictive nutrient- which the late great Dr Abram Hoffer once prescribed for myself to re-set my sleeping patterns which had been disrupted by another doctor's legal though harmful prescribing of various addictive drugs. Hoffer once told me that anything including water can be harmful if too much is ingested. As for Nattokinase I am sure it too is safe, but since Health Canada is being stupid again, niacin taken regularly in the right amounts- according to Hoffer, will save people from ever having a stroke and from ever needing by-pass surgery as it lowers bad cholesterol and along with some other vitamins, thins blood.

      R U Kiddingme

      Nov 1, 2012 at 2:19pm

      Health Canada is doing its job, which is to try to regulate the capitalistic urge to bend the truth in the quest for profit.

      Medicine is a high-profit sector because, as I know, desperately ill people will consider just about any promising cure.

      It is certainly not up to Health Canada to prove that something is NOT a medicine. It is up to the manufacturer to prove that it IS medicine, by submitting double blind, peer reviewed studies. The onus is always on the person or group making the claim.

      I am well aware that the system is not perfect. It is hard for natural foodstuff-based remedies to get the funding needed for scientific trials. Pfizer has no interest in proving that an unpatentable plant is safer and more effective than its exclusive engineered-molecule product. We as consumers should ask for these non-for-profit studies to be undertaken (as UBC has done in gauging the effectiveness of ginseng).

      However, and this is the point, certification of medicine may be a cumbersome, slow, maddening system but it is the system we have. We need some system to stand between us and the olden days when any unscrupulous quack could claim that his sovereign remedy, made from 99% organic refined oil of snake, would fix your cancer, obesity, bald spot, and limp noodle.


      Nov 1, 2012 at 7:18pm

      Now if only health Canada would act with such decisive fervor and ban Genetically modified foods.... Apparently actual carcinogens are all good....
      Think its time for our beuracracy to put on big boy/girl pants and fullfill there mandate to protect its "citizens" not big pharma etc etc.
      The failure and lies are hastening the irrelevance of our current gov ernmental structure, would be nice to see it fixed without anarchy reigning supreme but if thats the way it must be then so be it.


      Nov 1, 2012 at 10:51pm

      I don't understand the problem. Health Canada recalled two lots, they did not ban the product. That's common practice. Especially in natural products, quality may vary. That's a non story by a disgruntled hippy.


      Nov 2, 2012 at 10:04pm

      I was stopped at the border for bringing amino tablets into Canada. The border "guards" had absolutely no idea what an amino is. They were shocking stupid. I thought you had to have SOME education to work at the border. Next time you are crossing the border, remember that the people giving you a hard time are the lowest on the IQ totem pole and force them to respect you.

      sandy freeman

      Nov 4, 2012 at 5:43am

      take a look who owns most of the so called health food manufactures and who makes the descisions and why they do it common knowledge see who is on the board of directors of chfa do you homework and you will be surprised where is abby hoffman


      Nov 6, 2012 at 3:18pm

      Why haven't I seen any peer reviewed studies on whether or not Oranges are dangerous ?! Maybe Blueberries while they are at it!!


      Nov 7, 2012 at 4:30pm

      Nattokinase has literally saved my life...I was prescribed warfarin in 1995 and took it for 9 years. After which my hair was falling out and I had the liver and metabolism of a 90 year old. I have been taking Nattokinase for the last 8 years and am healthy and happy.
      I find it absurd that Health Canada has determined rat poison (warfarin) a safer option. Health costs will continue to sky rocket with these types of bureaucratic decisions.


      Nov 8, 2012 at 5:27pm

      I have now been using Niacin in my Acupuncturist practice as a recommendation for my patients. It is unfortunate that health Canada poses Nattokinase as a threat to the public.

      Gary W. Nichol

      Nov 9, 2012 at 12:16pm

      First of all Health Canada is an Oxy Moron... They take care of Big Pharmas profits & that is the extent of it... The Natural Product Industry has a steear record of not hurting or killing anyone. Big Pharma kills & damages People on a regular basis.No drug cures anything but they think we should all be on then anyway.More drugs is certainly not the answer. Let our Dr's use both Natural & Pharmacutical as needed. Get Health Canada out of Big Pharmas pockets