At the request of Health Canada, Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) will update the 2006 Consumer Advertising Guidelines for Marketed Health Products (the “Guidelines”) to, among other things, include vaccines and medical devices. Up until now, the Guidelines only applied to consumer directed advertising of non-prescription drugs and natural health products. This is a significant development as the updated Guidelines will comprise the first Health Canada sponsored guidance which specifically addresses vaccine and medical device consumer advertising.

Although the Guidelines do not have the force of law, they nonetheless reflect Health Canada’s and ASC’s current interpretation of the provisions in the federal Food and Drugs Act which prohibit false, misleading and deceptive advertising practices. The Guidelines are intended to be used by the creators of consumer health product advertising in the development of compliant advertising materials, and will be used by advertising preclearance agencies, such as ASC, in the review of consumer directed health product advertising.

Note that the updated Guidelines will not apply to the advertising of veterinary drugs to consumers, the advertising of health products to healthcare professionals, the advertising of medical procedures involving the use of a medical device by a healthcare professional where the general public does not purchase the device, nor to the advertising of food and cosmetic products.

The primary intent of the Guidelines is to ensure responsible, on-label advertising where consumer health and safety is paramount. In this context, the content of the Guidelines address six primary types of consumer directed product claims, which are those related to product authorization, product performance, product composition (i.e. ingredients), comparisons, representations of opinion and authorization (e.g. testimonials) and product safety. The Guidelines examine each type of product claim in detail, and addresses both written and visual representations. The Guidelines also include multiple examples of acceptable and unacceptable claims in each category.

The update to the Guidelines is an important development in consumer health product advertising in Canada, and advertisers of vaccines and medical devices, in particular, are encouraged to become familiar with them.

A draft of the updated Guidelines can be found here (PDF), and stakeholders may provide feedback to ASC using the stakeholder feedback form (PDF). The consultation period closes on November 21, 2016.