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Legal loophole exposes Canadians to drug advertising banned in US: UBC research
Date:5/27/2009

A legal loophole is counteracting Canada's ban on direct-to-consumer drug advertising and has exposed Canadians to more than $90 million worth of ads, including those for drugs with life-threatening risks, according to a study by UBC researchers.

Barbara Mintzes, Steve Morgan and James M. Wright from UBC's Centre for Health Services and Policy Research analyzed advertising spending on prescription drugs from 1995 to 2006 and saw spending rise from less than $2 million per year prior to 1999 to more than $22 million in 2006.

The study is published today in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE and available at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0005699.

The increase in advertising spending coincided with a policy change in 2000, when Health Canada allowed "reminder ads" ads that state the brand name without additional information or health claims under the price advertising provision in the Food & Drug Act. This provision was created in the 1970s to allow consumers to compare prices of prescription drugs.

"This loophole is being exploited to advertise prescription-only medicines to the Canadian public, including those with U.S. 'black-box' warnings and those subject to Health Canada safety advisories," says Mintzes, an assistant professor in the UBC Dept. of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics.

The U.S. and New Zealand are the only two developed countries that allow direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs. However, the U.S. prohibits reminder ads with a "black box" warning the country's strongest regulatory warning of serious harmful side effects. Canada is the only country in the world where prescription drug advertising to the public is banned while "reminder ads" of such drugs are allowed.

"It makes no sense to issue safety advisories telling physicians to prescribe a drug cautiously while tu
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Contact: Brian Lin
brian.lin@ubc.ca
604-822-2234
University of British Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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