Category Archives: Videos

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!!