Category Archives: Media

CanWest Global Attacks Drug Ad Laws — Video and References

I’ve released a video based on my previous article on the topic of CanWest Global trying to eliminate Canada’s drug advertising laws.

Update June 2009: Hearings in the case of CanWest Mediaworks vs Canada have been adjourned indefinitely. Yay! For more info contact Anne Rochon Ford, Women and Health Protection, tel: 416-651-7218 <www.whp.apsf.ca>. Here’s  a release from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the June 12, 2009 press release from Women and Health Protection is below:

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Charter challenge on prescription drug advertising adjourned indefinitely

The Charter challenge case on prescription drug advertising between CanWest Mediaworks Inc. and the Attorney General of Canada has been adjourned indefinitely due to the current financial difficulties of the CanWest corporation.

The case was scheduled to be heard before the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario June 15 to 19, 2009.

A coalition of groups, including Women and Health Protection, was granted intervener status in the case to present evidence about the risks to public safety of lifting Canada’s ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. According to Steven Shrybman, the lawyer who legally represents the coalition, this last minute adjournment is past due and will at least avoid further legal expenses for the federal government and the interveners. Shrybman is quoted in a Canadian Medical Association Journal article published on June 11, 2009.

CanWest Mediaworks mounted the Charter challenge to the statutory prohibition on direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs in 2005 on the basis that the current regulations on DTCA in Canada infringe on the company’s right to freedom of expression.

Members of the coalition include the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Health Coalition, Women and Health Protection, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the Society for Diabetic Rights, the Medical Reform Group and Terence Young.

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Here’s the video below, but in fact it’s much better to follow this link to YouTube and choose the option “View in High Quality” just below the video. It makes a big difference! If you don’t see the option and you’re using high speed internet, try a different browser. (And while you’re there, you might also want to check out this video which is about another CanWest Global lawsuit, wherein they’re suing the creators of a parody of the Vancouver Sun newspaper. Together, the two lawsuits give a pretty dark picture of CanWest Global’s intentions in this country…)

That aforementioned article includes various references and links, but below are some more for easy access.

Here’s CanWest’s original press release.

Some elements of the case are available for online viewing through the Canadian Legal Information Institute, Ontario Superior Court. The court affidavits from Health Canada, CanWest Global and various intervenors are available online at the Women and Health Protection website. Of particular relevance for my video are the testimony and references of Dr. John Abramson.  The Health Canada affidavits provide a history of drug ad laws in Canada, and fascinating, heretofore secret information about our government’s attempts to reign in false, illegal and misleading advertising by pharmaceutical companies, like those featuring Diane 35.

Other intervenors in the case include the Canadian Health Coalition, the Federation of Nurses Unions, CUPE, CEP, and the Medical Reform Group.

Here’s an article about the case by Alicia Priest in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and a commentary by author-professor Alan Cassels in the British Medical Journal. The Canadian Medical Association has issued its policy on DTCA.

There has been very limited media coverage of the topic, and in none of the articles that I’ve seen have the media outlets disclosed their own position on the issue. The Globe and Mail ran one piece. CBC radio gave it some coverage. The Toronto Star has done more than most, including this article on a study examining the dollar costs of DTCA in Canada. Here’s the absolutely ridiculous article in the National Post/Financial Post by Peter Foster: Where does this guy get off either blatantly lying or not doing even one iota of research before mouthing off on such an important topic to a national audience? Here’s the U.S. FDA’s list of reprimands to pharmaceutical companies for their false advertising. It’s an interesting site because it actually shows the full text of letters and in some cases copies of the offending ads.

Drug expenditure information from CIHA.

Public Citizen’s analysis of drug company profits in comparison to other Fortune 500 companies.

Disclosure: I’m a full-time freelance researcher and writer, and I wrote and produced this video entirely on my own. I am not affiliated with any of these organizations in any way, and I’ve never received any funding from pharmaceutical companies, CanWest Global, or any of the organizations involved in the court case. If you like independent journalism in Canada, Mom, please send money now!!

When Truth is Not Politic

Victoria BC’s boondoggle of an emergency communications system exemplifies why there’s always another question as to how and why a fiasco happens.
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How did we spend $18 million on an emergency communications system that won’t work during emergencies, from which in May Victoria again threatened to withdraw? Why is there a ghastly video billboard at our arena, even though our politicians claim they opposed it? How can Employment Minister Claude Richmond dismiss studies showing welfare cutbacks ultimately cost more than they save?

Maybe I missed crucial news reports that answered these questions satisfactorily. But most often, no matter how closely I follow media coverage, I constantly still wonder about every story, ‘What’s the truth behind this?’

Even when I read reports and interview people myself, I’m always left with questions. Why is that?

Consider an example. The Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications system (CREST) was created for 36 area police, ambulance and fire response agencies. It’s run by a CRD-created corporation; most of its directors are elected local politicians. Since its 2002 launch, we’ve been hearing plenty about this fiasco. Yet like me, you’re probably still wondering, ‘How’d this happen??’ Continue reading “When Truth is Not Politic” »

CanWest Global Attacks Drug Ad Laws

It’s arguably the year’s most important health care story. We’ve heard little about it, though, because media are deeply implicated in it themselves.

Direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceutical drugs (DTCA) is unfettered in only the U.S. and New Zealand. Canada, as the world’s eighth largest drug market, makes a juicy target to be next.

But ironically, Big Pharma isn’t the one fighting to legalize pushing amphetamines during Degrassi reruns; it’s CanWest Global (owners of the Victoria Times-Colonist, Global TV, CH TV, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province, Dose, Metro etc). CanWest has launched a lawsuit under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, trying to tear down Canada’s limits on pharmaceutical advertising. Continue reading “CanWest Global Attacks Drug Ad Laws” »

Dark Days at Black Press

There’s a good chance many of you haven’t heard about the recent ugly “purges” at Black Press. That, however, is not due to any dearth of journalists yearning to divulge every detail. Most reporters have been talking about it; with few exceptions, they just aren’t being allowed to report it.

Black Press is local mogul David Black’s company which owns the Victoria News, Oak Bay News, Saanich News, Monday Magazine and some 70 other BC newspapers.

Since new publisher Penny Sakamoto and president Mark Warner came aboard, there’s been a steady exodus of staffers this year. At a recent Movie Monday showing of “The Paper“, Black Press journalists Keith Norbury and Patrick Blennerhassett replicated the movie’s complaints about increasing budget pressures and disappearing lines separating editorial content from advertiser influences.

This real-world tale climaxed in August. Continue reading “Dark Days at Black Press” »