Regulation of Health Products Advertising in Canada - Overview for Physicians

May 09, 2018

Definition of Advertising: Advertisement includes any representation by any means whatever for the purpose of promoting directly or indirectly the sale or disposal of any food, drug, cosmetic or device.

Not all health productFootnote 1 messages are advertising. Health Canada's guidance document "The Distinction between Advertising and Other Activities" explains how Health Canada uses contextual factors to help determine whether a given message is information or advertising. If the message is an advertisement, it must comply with the advertising provisions of the Food and Drugs Act and associated regulations.

Any person who promotes the sale of a specific health product is subject to this legislation, including physicians when they use their Web sites or other means for this purpose.

Food and Drugs Act

  • Section 9(1): Prohibits health product advertising which is false, misleading or deceptive, or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety. Examples of possible section 9(1) contraventions: messages which emphasize only product benefits without including safety information; and messages discussing off-label use of a product.
  • Section 20(1): Prohibits false, misleading or deceptive advertising of medical devices.
  • Section 3(1): Prohibits consumer-directed ads for health products (including medical devices) which make claims to treat, prevent or cure any of the serious diseases listed in Schedule A to the Act (although Schedule A prevention claims are now permitted by regulation for over-the-counter drugs and natural health products).

Food and Drug Regulations

  • Section C.01.044: Prohibits consumer-directed prescription drug advertising beyond the drug's name, price and quantity. This means, for example, that when a prescription drug is advertised by name to consumers, no reference can be made to its therapeutic use and/or benefits.
  • Section C.08.002(1): Prohibits the advertising of new drugs which have not been authorized for sale by Health Canada.

Additional information can be found in the document Health Products Advertising on Physicians Web Sites - Questions and Answers available on the Web site.

The Food and Drugs Act and Food and Drug Regulations can be found on the Justice Laws Web site.

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