Advertising is something almost all people experience and view daily. Yet, it can be challenging to navigate this space as it can be unclear to identify the truthful claims from the misleading claims. Fortunately, in Canada, Health Canada is the regulatory authority for consumer advertising, more specifically, health products.
How does Health Canada regulate marketing?
Health Canada is committed to ensuring that information in a health product advertisement is not false, misleading, or deceptive. Advertising for Non-prescription drugs and Natural Health Products stems from the terms of market authorization (TMA). In the case of non-prescription drugs, it is the labelling standard, product monograph, authorized labelling and category IV monograph. While for Natural Health Products, it is the product license. We will discuss each of the components of a label and ad and the standards around them.
What statements can be made when advertising a health product?
The recommended use, the direction of use, duration of use, side effects and product performance must be consistent with the TMA. At least one claim should be listed on a label. Additionally, the ad and claims should be a consistent representation of the TMA. As there are many types of products, health products must be accurately represented as per it’s TMA, such as a non-prescription drug or a natural health product. For products making claims on organic or natural, the following must be satisfied:
- Advertisers should possess evidence of certification, i.e. a copy of the Organic Certificate, issued by a recognized certification body.
- Products that are certified organic, i.e. where the organic content is greater than or equal to 95%, may be advertised as “organic.” The trademark of the recognized certification body may be included in advertising.
- A synthetically derived ingredient should not be represented as “natural” or “natural source(d).”
- Claims that a product is “natural” or “natural source(d)” are permissible only if the claim is true for all ingredients (both medicinal and non-medicinal).
- Claims that one or several ingredients in a multi-ingredient product are “natural” or “natural source(d)” are permissible, as long as it is clear to which ingredient(s) the claim applies.
On the topic of product guarantees, it is inherently clear that this is not permitted as it suggests that a product is suitable for all individuals. While much of this information is a helpful tool in making the right decisions for claims and advertising, the question remains:
Who preclears ads and ad campaigns?
Well, advertising material for non-prescription drugs and natural health products directed to consumers is reviewed and precleared by independent agencies that have publicly self-attested to meeting Health Canada’s recommended attestation criteria.
With anything, there are always some outliers who chose to heed some of the regulatory guidelines around advertising. Should individuals find instances of suspected misleading practices, there is an online tool to submit complaints for Health Canada to review. The complaints are prioritized and acted on based on the risk that they pose.
As you take steps to understand this complex marketing space, there may be many things that remain unclear. Advertising practices are plenty and frequently changing, and having the quality level expertise can help ensure you are up to date on the most current regulatory information.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your compliance needs during and after licensing!