Canada’s PAAB Releases Updated Code of Advertising Acceptance

The Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB) has released a revised version of its Code of Advertising Acceptance. This new version is available on the PAAB website and will be effective as of July 1, 2013.

PAAB is an independent agency, recognized by Health Canada, which reviews and pre-clears all forms of drug product advertising (prescription, non-prescription, biologics and natural health products) provided or directed to healthcare professionals. PAAB also gives advisory opinions on direct-to-patient educational communications on diseases that can be treated with prescription drugs.

Section 6.5 of the Code, which deals with Internet and social media promotional systems, has been significantly updated to reflect the growing use of these media. For websites that incorporate user-generated content (chat rooms, blogs, bulletin boards, etc.), sponsors are required to pre-clear discussion topics with PAAB and monitor postings to ensure that they comply with the Food and Drugs Act and the Code. These websites must specify terms of use that inform users of the types of comments that may be removed or modified by the sponsor. Notably, the name of a drug company sponsoring a website or webpage should be specified on each webpage unless use of the name is prohibited by regulatory requirements or third-party owners.

All communications are required to present fair balance in the advertisement itself. However, the revised Code permits an advertisement to include a reference to a URL or to link to the Health Canada–approved Terms of Market Authorization, rather than attaching a copy of the product’s prescribing information, which is the current practice. A linked webpage does not need to be reviewed provided that the webpage does not contain additional promotional text or images; however, a product or corporate logo, without a tag line, is permissible.

The revised Code clarifies that exemption from pre-clearance requirements is available only for materials containing disease information that do not mention any treatment by name, class or category and that are not linked to product advertising in any way.

PAAB has indicated that there will be a transition period ending on July 1, 2014, for all promotional materials in circulation to comply with the new version of the Code. Training programs and question-and-answer sessions are planned to assist the industry in the implementation and interpretation of the new Code. PAAB is also developing guidance documents, which are scheduled to be released sometime in 2013.



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