Health freedom movement

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The health freedom movement is a coalition of alternative medicine organizations, consumers, activists, practitioners, and producers of products who campaign for wider availability and decreased regulation of alternative practices. In particular, the health freedom movement wants to avoid having alternative health practices regulated as if they were conventional medical practices.


The concept of health freedom is based on the idea that conventional medicine covers a relatively small subset of existing techniques. By definition, the remainder all fall into the category of alternative practices. The health-freedom movement is based on the idea that individuals have a right to choose their own treatment, rather than having it imposed upon them, even when this treatment is outside the mainstream of conventional medicine.[1]

One objective in the movement is to prevent alternative products - such as vitamins, minerals, herbals, botanicals, amino acids and other food supplements - from being regulated as if they were drugs, which requires millions of dollars and decades to approve. Instead, the dietary supplement industry wants them to remain classified as food.[2]

The belief that supplements and vitamins can demonstrably improve health or longevity is not widely accepted in the medical community, because there is felt to be insufficient evidence to support such beliefs.[3] Very rarely, large doses of some vitamins lead to vitamin poisoning (hypervitaminosis).[4]

Roots and support base[edit]

Health freedom supporters come from a variety of political backgrounds. Some supporters are politically left-wing, whilst the Republican congressman, 2008 U.S. presidential candidate, and physician Ron Paul, who supports health freedom,[5] calls himself a free market libertarian. A leading supporter of the movement,[6] Paul introduced the Health Freedom Protection Act in the U.S. Congress in 2005.[7][8] Others whose healthcare policies bear some comparison to that of the health freedom movement include Prince Charles, who has defended alternative therapies in an address to the World Health Assembly;[9] the British Conservative Party, which supported the Save Our Supplements campaign as part of its campaign against the EU Food Supplements Directive;[10] and the Green Party in Ireland has expressed concern that changes to this Directive will limit consumers' access to off-the-shelf vitamins and mineral supplements.[11] The Swedish conservative Moderate Party is also opposed to the EU imposed vitamin restrictions.[12]

Prominent celebrity supporters of the movement include the musician Sir Paul McCartney, who says that people "have a right to buy legitimate health food supplements" and that "this right is now clearly under threat,"[13] and the pop star/actress Billie Piper, who joined a march in London in 2003 to protest planned EU legislation to ban high dosage vitamin supplements.[14]

The term Health freedom movement has been used in the United States since the 1990s.[15][16] Around 2003 to 2005, a campaign organization founded by the British author Lynne McTaggart and called the Health Freedom Movement existed in the United Kingdom.[17]


United States[edit]

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA)[18] is health-freedom legislation. DSHEA defines supplements as foods. As with other foods, a supplement can be marketed unless the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proves that it poses significant or unreasonable risk of harm rather than on the manufacturer to prove the supplement’s safety (unlike prescription medications, which must prove their safety before being introduced). The Food and Drug Administration can take action only if the producers make medical claims about their products or if consumers of the products become seriously ill.[19]

An October 2002 nationwide Harris poll showed that, at that time, consumers still had widespread confusion about the differences between supplements and pharmaceuticals. Here, 59% of respondents believed that supplements had to be approved by a government agency before they could be marketed; 68% believed that supplements had to list potential side effects on their labels; and 55% believed that supplement labels could not make claims of safety without scientific evidence. All of these beliefs are incorrect as a result of provisions of the DSHEA.[20]

President Bill Clinton, on signing DSHEA into law, stated that "After several years of intense efforts, manufacturers, experts in nutrition, and legislators, acting in a conscientious alliance with consumers at the grassroots level, have moved successfully to bring common sense to the treatment of dietary supplements under regulation and law." He also stated that the passage of DSHEA "speaks to the diligence with which an unofficial army of nutritionally conscious people worked democratically to change the laws in an area deeply important to them" and that "In an era of greater consciousness among people about the impact of what they eat on how they live, indeed, how long they live, it is appropriate that we have finally reformed the way Government treats consumers and these supplements in a way that encourages good health."[21]

Another example of pro-health-freedom legislation occurred in March 2007, when Governor Timothy M. Kaine signed a bill into law in the U.S. State of Virginia allowing teenagers 14 or older and their parents the right to refuse medical treatments for ailments such as cancer, and to seek alternative treatments so long as they have considered all other medical options. Kaine described the bill as being "significant for health freedom in Virginia."[22]

In addition, by 2014 health-freedom laws authorizing some forms of unlicensed practice have been approved in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.[23] As a result, 21 percent of the U.S. population has access to alternative practitioners.


In Europe, health freedom movement writers and campaigners believe that European Union (EU) laws such as the Food Supplements Directive,[24] the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive,[25] and the Human Medicinal Products (Pharmaceuticals) Directive,[26] will reduce their access to food supplements and herbal medicines.[27] European health food producers, retailers and consumers have been vocal in protesting against this legislation, with the health freedom movement inviting supporters to "Stop Brussels from killing natural medicine".[28] On the day that Members of the European Parliament voted for a clampdown on vitamin sales, the parliament's computer system crashed under the strain of thousands of speed-dial emails, arguing that the new directive would "ban 300 popular supplements" and "drive British health stores out of business". In Strasbourg, meanwhile, Euro-MPs were accosted by activists handing out a propaganda video accusing five European commissioners of corruptly colluding with big pharmaceutical firms in an attempt to destroy the alternative network of homeopathic and natural medicines,[29] though it emerged that most homeopathic practice in the UK has been illegal for some years and proposed European regulatory changes do not materially affect this.[30][31][32]

In 2004, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) and two British trade associations introduced a legal challenge to the Food Supplements Directive referred to the European Court of Justice by the High Court in London.[33] The European Court of Justice's Advocate General subsequently said that the EU's plan to tighten rules on the sale of vitamins and food supplements should be scrapped,[34] but was overruled by the European Court, which decided that the measures in question were necessary and appropriate for the purpose of protecting public health. ANH interpreted the ban as applying only to synthetically produced supplements - and not to vitamins and minerals normally found in or consumed as part of the diet.[35] Nevertheless, the European judges did acknowledge the Advocate General's concerns, stating that there must be clear procedures to allow substances to be added to the permitted list based on scientific evidence. They also said that any refusal to add a product to the list must be open to challenge in the courts.[36] Some media observers believe that, as a result of this legislation, a black market will emerge, and that controls over ingredients and quality will vanish.[37]

Australia & New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, health freedom campaigners were concerned that many supplements would be removed from the shelves under the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill that was introduced to the NZ Parliament in 2006 by Food Safety Minister Annette King. If passed, the Bill would have created a joint agency with Australia to regulate therapeutic products. In July 2007, King announced that the Bill would be postponed until there was more support in the New Zealand parliament for the scheme.[38] She subsequently passed responsibility for the issue to New Zealand Health Minister Pete Hodgson, who said that "the status quo of an unregulated market for medical devices and complementary medicines cannot remain". It is understood that officials are now planning to look at using ministerial powers to create domestic regulations to apply to such products sold in New Zealand.[39]

More recently, in response to thousands of dollars worth of stock being confiscated by the regulatory body MedSafe, natural health practices in New Zealand have protested what they say is a Medsafe "witch hunt", arguing that the crackdown is a response to the stalling of the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill.[40] Subsequently, a petition was presented to New Zealand MPs calling for Medsafe to stop harassing natural health manufacturers and practitioners. The health-freedom campaigners who organised the petition say that 7000 signatures were gathered over a three-week period.[41]

Following the Australian Federal Government's decision to pay a record A$50 million (NZ$62.3 million) compensation to Jim Selim, the founder of complementary medicine manufacturer, Pan Pharmaceuticals, as a result of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration(TGA) recalling all of Pan's products in 2003, Health Freedom spokeswoman Nicola Grace said that a class action suit against the TGA involving some 100 businesses that closed because of the recall was likely to ensue and that "the ticket may just include Minister Annette King".[42]

Criticism of the pharmaceutical industry[edit]

Health freedom-orientated writers and campaigners tend to see restrictive legislation on supplements as being designed to protect the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.[29][43] If herbal medicines and supplements are removed from sale, they argue, patients will have no alternative but to use conventional pharmaceutical medicines.[44][45] Matthias Rath believes that the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in the continuation and expansion of diseases, rather than their cure, in that without the current widespread existence of diseases the industry would cease to exist in its current form.[46]

Criticism of the Codex Alimentarius Commission[edit]

A key focus of the health-freedom movement in recent years has been the activities of the Codex Alimentarius Commission,[47] which it perceives to be acting in the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.

The Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements[48] were adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission as a voluntary standard at its meeting in Rome in July 2005. The scope of the guidelines includes requirements for the packaging and labelling of vitamin and mineral supplements. The text also specifies that "supplements should contain vitamins/provitamins and minerals whose nutritional value for human beings has been proven by scientific data and whose status as vitamins and minerals is recognised by FAO and WHO." In addition, it states that the "sources of vitamins and minerals may be either natural or synthetic" and that "their selection should be based on considerations such as safety and bioavailability." The National Health Federation, by virtue of its official observer status at Codex, was the only delegation present at the meeting to oppose the adoption.[49] Drafted using the EU Food Supplements Directive as a blueprint, health-freedom orientated protagonists argue that the eventual effect of these Guidelines will be to remove large numbers of what they regard as the most effective forms of nutrients from the global market, set restrictive upper limits on the dosages of all permitted nutrients, and prevent the sale of all supplements for curative, preventative or therapeutic purposes without a doctor’s prescription.[50]

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have stated that the guidelines are "to stop consumers overdosing on vitamin and mineral food supplements." The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has said that the guidelines call "for labelling that contains information on maximum consumption levels of vitamin and mineral food supplements." The WHO has also said that the Guidelines "ensure that consumers receive beneficial health effects from vitamins and minerals."[51]

The health-freedom movement is concerned, among other things, about similarities between the EU's Food Supplements Directive and the Codex Alimentarius Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.[52] A book, "Codex Alimentarius - Global Food Imperialism," has been published by the Foundation for Health Research in 2007, and includes numerous articles by health-freedom supporters concerning their personal experiences and observations about Codex over a ten-year period.

Criticism of regional trade blocs[edit]

A number of health-freedom supporters believe that the increasing tendency for countries to form free trade areas and trade blocs threatens their freedom of choice in healthcare, on the grounds that they believe these further increase the pressure upon countries to harmonize their food and supplement laws to the voluntary reference standard set by Codex. Campaigners argue that such trade agreements are about business and money and are put before the welfare of countries.[53] Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul has said that the Central American Free Trade Agreement "increases the possibility that Codex regulations will be imposed on the American public."[54]

Organizations and campaigners[edit]

The core of the health-freedom movement consists of a loose coalition of organizations, consumers, activists, alternative medicine practitioners, producers of products, bloggers and newsfeeds.

USA and the Americas

The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), co-founded in 1999 by Sally Fallon (Morell) and nutritionist Mary G. Enig (PhD), is a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization active in the United States raw milk debate.

The Life Extension Foundation (LEF) is a non-profit research-based organization headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[55][56][57] Established in 1980 by co-founders Saul Kent and William Faloon, its primary purpose is to fund research and disseminate information on anti-aging and optimal health.

The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine is a non-profit alternative medicine organization headquartered in Chicago. It promotes the ideas of "anti-aging medicine" and health freedom.[58]

The National Health Federation (NHF) is an international non-profit organization founded in January 1955, which describes its mission as protecting individuals' rights to use dietary supplements and alternative therapies without government restriction. The NHF also opposes interventions such as water fluoridation and childhood vaccines. The Federation has official observer status at meetings of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the highest international body on food standards. Based in California, the Federation's board members include medical doctors, scientists, therapists and consumer advocates of natural health; and it is the only health-freedom organization with Codex credentials permitting it to participate actively at Codex Alimentarius meetings.


The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) is an advocacy group founded in 2002 by Robert Verkerk and based in the United Kingdom. The ANH was initially founded to raise funds to finance a legal challenge of the EU Food Supplement Directive. The ANH lobbies against regulation of dietary supplements and in favor of alternative medical approaches such as homeopathy, and also advocates a healthy diet, exercise, and other lifestyle approaches to health. The Alliance also criticizes scientific research showing that megadoses of vitamins lack any health benefit.

The Dr. Rath Health Foundation was founded by a German doctor, Matthias Rath. The foundation is financed by the profits from a supplement manufacturer owned by Dr Rath.

Individual campaigners

The health freedom movement also includes a number of individual campaigners, newsfeeds, opinion makers and talk radio stations. Examples include Gary Null, Dr Joseph Mercola, Joyce Riley's talk radio show The Power Hour and Kevin Trudeau.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 'Legal Matters: Impact of International Product Regulations on Consumer Access to, and the Manufacturing of, Dietary Supplements: The Need for Health Freedom Advocacy' Diane M. Miller. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 1 February 2008, 14(1): 43-47. doi:10.1089/act.2008.14102. Published 1 February 2008. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  2. ^ Eating Well New York Times. Published 15 December 1993. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  3. ^ Counseling for Vitamin Supplementation to Prevent Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease, from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Released June 2003; accessed 28 September 2007.
  4. ^ 2004 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposure Surveillance System.
  5. ^ Ron Paul candidate platform, The Boston Herald Published 27 December 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
  6. ^ "Ron Paul 2008 Hope for America" Accessed 28 September 2007.
  7. ^ Health Freedom Protection Act Introduced in US Congress
  8. ^ Free Speech and Dietary Supplements
  9. ^ "Charles defends holistic medicine", The Daily Telegraph. Published 24 May 2006. Retrieved 12 April 2005.
  10. ^ Vitamins & Minerals Under Threat
  11. ^ 'Greens claim EU directive may limit access to vitamins' The Irish Times Published 13 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  12. ^ European Parliament, voting record 2002, Food Supplement Directive
  13. ^ "Health food fans plan to copy alliance march", Daily Telegraph Published 13 September 2002. Retrieved 28 September 2007.
  14. ^ "Billie makes a stand", This is Wiltshire Published June 2003. Retrieved 28 September 2007.
  15. ^ "Gallegly Is Key Foe of FDA's Vitamin Rules - Simi Valley: The GOP congressman has emerged as leader of effort to minimize new labeling requirements" Los Angeles Times, 2 January 1994
  16. ^ "Doctor's supporters go to bat for him - Followers of alternative medicine organize to defend physicians they see as under attack" The Orange County Register, 7 February 1999
  17. ^ "And then pop go the pills - Today a new law on supplements comes into force which has split the world of natural healthcare" The Herald, 1 August 2005
  18. ^ Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994
  19. ^ Dan Hurley (2006). Natural causes: death, lies, and politics in America's vitamin and herbal supplement industry. New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-2042-2. 
  20. ^ "Dangerous Supplements: Still at Large, from Consumer Reports magazine. Published May 2004. Retrieved 7 February 2007.
  21. ^ The American Presidency Project, University of California, Santa Barbara. William J. Clinton: Statement on Signing the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994; 25 October 1994. From the website of The American Presidency Project, University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved 9 February 2007.
  22. ^ "Kaine Signs Tax Cut for Poor, Medical Rights for Sick Teens". Washington Post. Published 27 March 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2007.
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Directive 2004/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004
  26. ^ Directive 2004/27/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 amending Directive 2001/83/EC on the Community code relating to medicinal products for human use
  27. ^ 'Nil by mouth', by Rose Shepherd. The Observer. Published 29 February 2004. Retrieved 16 April 2007.
  28. ^ 'Vitamin rules jar with the herbal industry.' Financial Times. Published 23 February 2004. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
  29. ^ a b 'Euro-MPs vote for clampdown on vitamin sales' The Daily Telegraph. Published 14 March 2002. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  30. ^ Dr. Andy Lewis, June 26, 2012
  31. ^ Professor David Colquohon, quoted in The Lancet, 30 April 2011
  32. ^ MHRA statement on regulation of homeopathy
  33. ^ 'Court victory for vitamin firms' BBC News Published 30 January 2004. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  34. ^ 'EU health foods crackdown 'wrong BBC News. Published 5 April 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  35. ^ 'Vitamin controls backed by Europe' BBC News. Published 12 July 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  36. ^ 'EU court backs health supplements ban' The Guardian Published 12 July 2005. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
  37. ^ 'Should we swallow it?' The Independent. Published 26 June 2002. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
  38. ^ "Joint therapeutic agency plans shelved." The Age. Published 16 July 2007. Retrieved 29 July 2007.
  39. ^ Young, Audrey (17 July 2007). "Government defeat on medicines spurs 'lame-duck' jibes". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  40. ^ "Natural health products confiscated". North Shore Times. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  41. ^ "Witch hunt" by Medsafe claimed by petitioners. Radio New Zealand News. Published 29 May 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2008.
  42. ^ "Successful lawsuit doesn't affect NZ, says Dalziel". Otago Daily Times. 27 August 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  43. ^ 'Why do meddling Eurocrats want to ban your vitamin pills? (Could it be anything to do with the drug giants hoping for huge profits?)', by Geoffrey Lean. Published in the Daily Mail (Good Health section) on 25 January 2005. Accessed on the Alliance for Natural Health website 7 February 2009.
  44. ^ Medical schools, journals start to fight drug industry influence USA today
  45. ^ "Euro MPs back herbal crackdown". BBC News, quoted from statement of Dr Rob Verkerk, Executive Director of the Alliance for Natural Health. Published 22 November 2002. Retrieved 29 September 2007.
  46. ^ The Dr. Rath Health Foundation | Responsibility for a healthy world
  47. ^ Codex Alimentarius
  48. ^
  49. ^ Codex Alimentarius Commission. Report of the Twenty-Eighth Session. FAO Headquarters, Italy, 4 July-9 July 2005 Accessed 26 April 2008.
  50. ^ The Dr. Rath Health Foundation | Responsibility for a healthy world
  51. ^ UN commission adopts safety guidelines for vitamin and food supplements United Nations News Centre. Published 11 July 2005. Retrieved 26 March 2009
  52. ^ Nil by mouth. The Observer newspaper, UK. Published 29 February 2004. Retrieved 1 January 2009
  53. ^ 'Is cure for apple moth worse than the disease?' The Register Pajaronian. Published 19 June 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  54. ^ 'The vitamin police', by ALAN BOCK, Sr. editorial writer, The Orange County Register. Published 14 August 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  55. ^ Heard, Alex (28 September 1997). "Technology Makes Us Optimistic; They Want To Live". New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2008. 
  56. ^ Rose, Steve (23 January 2004). "Stephen Valentine talks about the battle to conquer death". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 February 2008. 
  57. ^ "House approves mail-order purchase of drugs". USA Today. 11 July 2001. Retrieved 7 February 2008. 
  58. ^ Kuczynski, Alex (12 April 1998). "Anti-Aging Potion or Poison?". New York Times. 

External links[edit]