Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor announces intent to severely restrict marketing of opioids

News release

Minister also announces funding for opioid-related projects focusing on peer training, professional education, drug checking and surveillance across Canada

June 19, 2018 - Ottawa, ON - Government of Canada

The opioid crisis continues to devastate Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Today, the Public Health Agency of Canada, on behalf of the federal, provincial and territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses, released preliminary data on opioid-related deaths for all of 2017. Sadly, the data show that nearly 4,000 Canadians lost their lives in 2017 as a result of an apparent opioid-related overdose. The Government of Canada continues to work with its partners to ensure a comprehensive response to this crisis.

Today, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, announced a series of measures to address industry's opioid marketing practices. This includes announcing the Government's intention to severely restrict most forms of prescription opioid marketing.

While prescription opioids can help Canadians who need them to manage pain, industry marketing can unduly influence health professionals, leading to over-prescription of opioids and further contributing to Canada's opioid crisis.

With today's posting of a formal Notice of Intent, Health Canada launched consultations to seek views on restricting most forms of marketing and advertising of prescription opioids, with the possibility of carefully tailored exemptions to allow for the continued sharing of helpful educational and scientific information. These consultations will be open until July 18, 2018. Until new regulations are in place, Minister Petitpas Taylor is also calling on opioid manufacturers and distributors to immediately cease marketing activities associated with opioids in Canada, on a voluntary basis.

The Minister also announced the creation of a dedicated marketing compliance and enforcement team within Health Canada backed by $5 million in operational resources over five years. This team will proactively monitor opioid marketing to enforce the existing rules around improper advertising, and to take action where necessary, including recommending criminal charges where appropriate. The Government is also exploring the development of new enforcement tools, including administrative fines that could be levied rapidly in the case of less serious violations.

In addition, Minister Petitpas Taylor announced a total of $8.9 million in federal investments from:

  • Health Canada's Substance Use and Addictions Program for nine opioid related projects; and
  • the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for research projects to evaluate opioid interventions that will be launched by in the coming weeks.

Quotes

"High rates of opioid prescriptions are a contributing factor to Canada's opioid crisis. As Minister, I am calling on industry to act now and stop their marketing activities associated with these products in Canada. I have asked my Department to assess evidence of the benefits and harms of past and current opioid marketing practices. This evidence will inform our plans to severely restrict most forms of opioid marketing through regulation. These measures, along with new funding announced today, will help us to better protect Canadians and to support those dealing with problematic substance use."

The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health

"I am deeply concerned by the opioid crisis in Canada. In 2017, we saw an increase of 34% of apparent opioid-related deaths across Canada when compared to 2016.. This is unlike any other public health crisis we have experienced in recent years. It is crucial to deal with both the immediate crisis and the root causes that lead people to problematic substance use, so that solutions will save lives and reverse the trend on this national health crisis."

Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

Quick facts

  • These measures are in addition to Regulations published on May 2, 2018 in Canada Gazette, Part II that allow the Minister of Health to require companies to develop and implement risk management plans. This requirement includes preclearance of opioid-related materials provided to health care professionals to ensure advertising materials comply with the terms of market authorization.

  • The Substance Use and Addictions Program is a federal contributions program that provides financial support to project proponents from the provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations and key stakeholders to strengthen responses to drug and substance use issues in Canada. The projects announced today include surveillance initiatives, education and training for peers and peer workers, and projects to develop best practices for medication-assisted treatments.

  • Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government is funding scientists who are working to provide evidence of the best interventions to treat pain, prevent opioid overdoses, treat opioid use disorder and promote harm reduction.

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Associated links

Contacts

Thierry Bélair
Office of Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health
613-957-0200

Media Relations
Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada
613-957-2983

Public Inquiries:

  • 613-957-2991
  • 1-866-225-0709

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