The Marketed Health Products Directorate within Health Canada is asking health professionals to be on the lookout—and report—illegal marketing of drugs and devices. The Stop illegal marketing of drugs and devices (SIMDD) program has identified five areas of focus:
- opioids and other controlled substances,
- natural and non-prescription health products,
- biologics and biosimilars,
- veterinary health products, and
- medical devices.
To contribute to this program, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians should be aware of these illegal marketing practices:
- Omitting or downplaying risks – marketing of drugs and medical devices to healthcare providers, including any promotional materials, must present product information in a balanced manner, including side effects, contraindications, warnings, and precautions.
- Overstating effectiveness – look for advertisers who make efficacy claims not supported by Health Canada’s Terms of Market Authorization (e.g., Product Monograph, prescribing information, inserts, etc.).
- Promoting unauthorized (off-label) use – Drugs, natural health products, and medical devices are authorized by Health Canada for specific indications.
- Promoting an unauthorized product – Marketing prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, natural health products, and Class II, II, and IV medical devices is prohibited unless the product is authorized for sale by Health Canada.
- Misleading endorsements – endorsements, testimonials, or quotations are only acceptable if they represent the honest opinions of the individuals or organizations and must be consistent with the authorized indications for the product. Claims of endorsement by government authorities, such as Health Canada, are not permitted.
- Misleading comparative claims – all comparative claims for drugs and natural health products must be based on therapeutic aspects supported in the product monograph and must follow the Therapeutic Comparative Advertising Directive.
For more information on identifying and reporting illegal marketing of drugs and devices, watch this video from Health Canada or read about common techniques marketers use to influence your prescribing and/or dispensing.
To file a drug or device marketing complaint, visit the Health Canada website.