The Use of Social Media by the Drug Industry in Canada, and Comparison with U.S. Laws

The Internet in general, and social media in particular, is changing advertising. Drug advertising is no exception. Consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet for health-related information. In 2009, 70% of Canadians turned to the Internet for health-related information, and 92% of those used the search engine Google, rather than a health portal to gather this information.Furthermore, social media has permanently changed the way we consume and share information. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have hundreds of millions of users. However, the drug industry has been proceeding cautiously in taking advantage of social media advertising, while waiting for regulators publish clear policies. Nonetheless, the industry has begun carefully advertising using the new media. For example, race car driver Charlie Kimball (who is a diabetic) partnered with Novo Nordisk to prove that he can pursue his high-performance career using insulin. As part of the ad campaign, Kimball tweeted the drug’s generic name and a link to information about the drug’s risks and benefits.

This article gives a broad overview of the Canadian regulatory framework and guidelines that affect the advertising of pharmaceuticals in social media; it also provides some enforcement examples and discusses general compliance issues, including spillover advertising. The article then concludes with a brief comparison between U.S. and Canadian laws.

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With permission from FDLI.

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