CREDIT: Calgary Herald
Tony Stephan, left, and business
partner David Hardy of Truehope.
A Health Canada raid on the offices of a company producing a
purported nutritional cure for mental illness has sparked a
ferocious war of words between hard-core believers and skeptics of
Supporters say the supplement Empowerplus -- a mix of 36
vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants -- is a miracle cure and some
people may take their own lives if they can't get it.
Detractors, however, say the company has been growing wealthy
selling something no better than a placebo to very vulnerable
Ron LaJeunesse, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health
Association's Alberta division, says he knows many people who have
been essentially cured of mental illness after taking
"It's going to result in dozens of suicides. I know of two
already," he said.
"If there's no opportunity for people to take it, at best we're
going to see some mental patients going back to hospital. At worst,
Others cheered the Tuesday raid on the Raymond offices of
Truehope Nutritional Support Ltd., saying it's about time the
government took some action to stop the sale of Empowerplus.
Kaj Korvela, the head of the Calgary-based Organization for
Bipolar Affective Disorders, said he doesn't believe the supplement
is as effective as its supporters say. He says he knows of many
people who got more ill when they dropped their prescribed
medications in favour of Empowerplus.
"It was too expensive, it made them worse and most of them went
back on their medication," said Korvela.
A Health Canada spokeswoman said Wednesday the government is
standing firm on its decision to initiate the surprise search, which
aimed to collect proof Truehope and its sister company, Synergy
Group of Canada, were marketing and selling a drug without
Krista Apse said the companies have yet to meet the most basic
requirements when making health claims about its product -- namely,
providing scientific evidence it's safe and effective.
"We're taking action to protect the health of Canadians," said
Apse, speaking from Ottawa Wednesday.
Employees of Empowerplus's company Truehope Nutritional Support
Ltd. were stunned Tuesday morning when RCMP officers acting on a
search warrant burst into their office in Raymond, south of
Lethbridge, and shut the company down for a day while they looked
About 19 hours later, officers carted away nine boxes of material
and the company began operating as normal Wednesday morning.
But the raid stirred up a hornet's nest of fury, and now many of
those employees along with several others are planning to protest
Friday outside the Edmonton office of federal Health Minister Anne
McLellan, to express their outrage.
"There's an uprising of resentment with what Health Canada is
doing," said David Hardy, one of two main owners of Truehope, along
with his colleague Tony Stephan. "If they're really interested in
health, why are they restricting access to something that's
Hardy says several scientific studies have shown Empowerplus is
safe and effective -- including a preliminary project by University
of Calgary researcher Bonnie Kaplan.
"They have ample evidence this is safe and effective. They can't
Apse said Truehope and Synergy have never filed a new drug
submission, despite several requests to do so, and have refused to
comply with its orders to stop selling Empowerplus in the
Last month, Health Canada issued a health advisory about
Empowerplus, warning Canadians not to take it. It has also been
intercepting shipments of it at the U.S. border but continues to
allow people to bring back the product for personal use, defined as
a three-month supply for a single person.
Health Canada has not decided if or when it will file charges
under the Food and Drugs Act.