Spring 2019

Addressing the Illegal Marketing of Drugs and Devices

illegal marketing of drugs banner
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Health Canada is enlisting the support of healthcare professionals in a program focused on ending the illegal advertising of drugs and medical devices.

The federal regulator launched the first of a multi-phased program with a web-based platform entitled Stop Illegal Marketing of Drugs and Devices. It aims to:

  • create an understanding of legal and illegal practices;
  • provide a quick and easy tool to file a complaint to Health Canada; and
  • keep healthcare professionals from inadvertently perpetuating illegal advertising when discussing health products and/or services with patients.

Phase Two – expected to be launched this summer – will include online educational modules.

Health product advertising is the direct or indirect promotion surrounding the sale or use of any drug or device conducted by any means including print, Internet and broadcast. Only drugs and devices that have been authorized for sale by Health Canada may be advertised in Canada.

Areas under renewed marketing scrutiny include prescription drugs, biologics and biosimilars, opioids and other controlled substances, medical devices, veterinary health products and natural health products. In cases where the illegal marketing of drugs and medical devices is identified, Health Canada is taking action as required, including recommending criminal charges where appropriate. The complaint process is available on the website.

illegal marketing of drugs infographic

Be wary of marketing that omits/downplays risk or overstates effectiveness. Advertising of drugs and devices to health care providers is prohibited if the claims:

  • are false, deceptive or misleading;
  • do not provide a balanced representation of benefits and risks; and
  • are not consistent with the terms of market authorization of the product.

As marketing materials provided by the pharmaceutical industry are among the information sources used by healthcare professionals to make decisions about patient care, Health Canada is striving to ensure they accurately convey the benefits and risks of products.

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