Health Canada proposes additional pharma rules

Focused on opioids, the regulations also come with a platform to educate Canadians on health marketing more broadly.
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Health Canada has revealed proposed regulations to further restrict pharmaceutical marketing in an effort to help curb the opioid crisis, as well as a new platform to inform Canadians more broadly about marketing practices within the health category.

The proposed restrictions impact Class B opioids, which are those equal to or stronger than morphine and includes codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone, among others.

Under Health Canada’s proposal, all promotional materials about Class B opioids provided to health care professionals – including all ads and pamphlets – must be limited to statements authorized by Health Canada and presented verbatim.

“I recognize that advertising can influence the prescribing practices of health care professionals,” Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in an announcement. “Today’s announcement will help us to ensure that health professionals are getting only factual information about these products, so that they can provide the best possible support to their patients.”

In addition to the new proposed rules, Health Canada has also launched a “Stop Illegal Marketing of Drugs and Devices” online platform, aimed at educating Canadians about the way pharma and health products are marketed to both them and their healthcare providers. It contains sections on illegal practices, as well as marketing techniques that could be considered deceptive.

The platform also offers a tool to make it faster and easier for Canadians to file complaints about advertising and promotional practices that might not be compliant with rules, and makes it easier to find Health Canada’s list of complaints it has received. The complaints are not limited to opioid-related infractions, as the list includes prescription drugs, natural health products and even electronic smoking devices where claims have been made about “serious disease.”

Companies affected by the changes can submit comments on the rules to Health Canada, which are set to finalized in April and take effect in June.

The proposed rules are the latest released by Health Canada related to restricting marketing. In October, it required a warning sticker and a patient information handout to be provided with prescription opioids dispensed to Canadians and mandated that advertising agencies had to pre-clear all materials regarding opioid products that industry intends to provide to health care professionals. Last month, it also released new rules regarding the marketing of vaping and e-cigarette products.