Restricting the Marketing and Advertising of Opioids

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Prescription opioids can help Canadians who need them to manage pain. Prescriptions written by health care professionals are a common source of opioids in Canada. Even when prescribed by a doctor, opioids can lead to dependence, substance use disorder, and/or overdose. Canadians are the second highest users per capita of prescription opioids in the world, and rates of opioid prescribing and opioid-related hospital visits and deaths have been increasing rapidly.

When making decisions about treatments to prescribe to patients, health care professionals use many different information sources, including marketing and advertising material provided by the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry provides information about, and increases knowledge of, their products through a variety of means, including advertising, pamphlets, ads in scientific journals, sales representatives' visits, sponsored conferences, and educational courses. While there is value in the pharmaceutical industry conveying educational and scientific information about a health product, evidence suggests that the marketing and advertising of opioids may be contributing to increased prescription sales and availability of opioids.

Recognizing that the over-prescribing of opioids may have contributed to Canada's opioid crisis, and that industry marketing and advertising can unduly influence healthcare professionals, we are taking action to address industry's opioid marketing and advertising practices through the activities outlined below.

Call on Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors to Voluntarily Cease Marketing and Advertising of Opioids

In June 2018, the Minister of Health issued a letter to Canadian manufacturers and distributors of opioids, seeking their commitment to respond to the opioid crisis by immediately ceasing any and all marketing and advertising of opioids to health care professionals.

To reflect our commitment to openness and transparency, Health Canada is making public the letters issued to industry and the responses received. Industry responses can be ordered through the Meetings and Correspondence on Marketing and Advertising of Opioids page.

Stop Illegal Marketing of Drugs and Devices

Health Canada has launched a web-based platform titled Stop Illegal Marketing of Drugs and Devices to raise awareness about illegal marketing of drugs and medical devices, educate health care professionals on the rules governing health product advertising in Canada, as well as provide a quick and easy tool to report suspected misleading marketing practices to Health Canada.

A page of this platform is dedicated to the advertising of controlled substances, including opioids. For more information, please see Illegal marketing of opioids and other controlled substances.

Consultations

Notice of Intent

From June 19, 2018 to July 18, 2018, we held a public consultation on our intent to restrict opioid marketing and advertising.

Specifically, stakeholders and the public were invited to share information and views on the benefits and risks of opioid marketing and advertising and potential restrictions.

For more information, read our June 2018 Notice of Intent to Restrict Marketing and Advertising of Opioids.

Responses to the Notice are summarized in our What We Heard Report.

Session at the Opioid Symposium

In September 2018, Health Canada held a consultation session at the Opioid Symposium to gather feedback from stakeholders on Health Canada's intention to further restrict marketing and advertising of opioids to health care professionals.

For more information, please see the Summary of the Consultation Session at the Opioid Symposium: Further Restricting the Marketing and Advertising of Opioids.

Expert Advisory Group

Health Canada has initiated an Expert Advisory Group on Marketing of Opioids to provide the Department with input and advice regarding the evidence on the extent, impact and value of the pharmaceutical industry's marketing and advertising of opioids.

For more information, please see the Expert Advisory Group on Marketing of Opioids page.

Further Restrictions to the Marketing and Advertising of Opioids

Health Canada is considering further restricting the marketing and advertising of opioids by proposing additional Terms and Conditions for prescription opioid-containing products. The proposed additional Terms and Conditions would restrict all advertising materials of Class B opioids provided to health care professionals to only statements that have been authorized by Health Canada in the Product Monograph.

For more information, please see the March 11, 2019 Notice to Stakeholders: Further Restrictions to the Marketing and Advertising of Opioids.

Transparency of Stakeholder Communications for Marketing and Advertising of Opioids

As part of our commitment to openness and transparency, we're making more information available to the public, including records of our meetings and correspondence with stakeholders. See the Transparency of Stakeholder Communications for Marketing and Advertising of Opioids Initiatives page and the Meetings and Correspondence of Marketing and Advertising of Opioids page for more information.

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