Ad Standards publishes Guidelines for Consumer Advertising of Health Products

27 February 2018

In January 2018, Advertising Standards Canada (“Ad Standards”) published an updated Guidelines for Consumer Advertising of Health Products.  These guidelines were developed jointly by Health Canada and Ad Standards. The updated guidelines, while not law, form the basis of Ad Standards’ preclearance advertisement reviews, and may assist advertisers in producing content that is compliant with Canadian law. These guidelines apply generally to advertisements in Canadian media, including but not limited to television, websites, email, social media, in-store promotional material, and mass print.

These guidelines, originally published in draft form in 2016, expand upon the decade old Health Canada Consumer Advertising Guidelines for Marketed Health Products (for Nonprescription Drugs including Natural Health Products)(“Health Canada Guide”), and continue to apply to consumer directed advertising of non-prescription drugs and natural health products. As did the draft guidance, the scope of the final guidance has been expanded to include medical devices advertised and available for purchase to the general public, and vaccines, both of which were excluded from the previous guidelines.  Those inclusions notwithstanding, the new guidance is significantly shorter than the Health Canada Guide.

Aside from the above, the substantive changes appear minimal.  The updated guidance has been reorganized but continues to provide both general guidance and specific examples of claims and statements that may be made in advertisements of consumer health products, and should continue to serve as a tool for companies seeking to produce legally complaint media content.

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