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Laws 2014, 3(3), 410-438;

Regulating Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs in the Digital Age

Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, 84 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5, Canada
Received: 30 April 2014 / Revised: 4 July 2014 / Accepted: 7 July 2014 / Published: 9 July 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Technology, Social Media and Law)
Full-Text   |   PDF [264 KB, uploaded 10 July 2014]


The increasing prominence of new Internet and social media technologies and their growing importance as a source of health information are pushing the pharmaceutical industry towards digital channels. This paper explores the potential impacts of the pharmaceutical industry’s increasing interest in online marketing and considers how the existing regulatory framework in Canada translates into the social media sphere. Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs is prohibited in Canada, as it is in most industrialized countries. Although Health Canada has reaffirmed that the existing DTCA regulations apply to new Internet and social media technologies, new dynamics such as user-generated content, consumer propagation, and targeted marketing make applying the existing regulations an uncertain process. Moreover, certain problems often associated with DTCA may be exacerbated in the social media context. Finally, there is skepticism around whether government regulators have the resources or political will to effectively monitor new digital media. As such, this paper considers not only the role of direct government regulation in monitoring and enforcing the regulation of DTCA, but also the role of third party oversight and industry self-regulation—both of which may play an important role in filling the gaps in the regulation of the Internet and social media. View Full-Text
Keywords: pharmaceuticals; direct-to-consumer advertising; social media pharmaceuticals; direct-to-consumer advertising; social media
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Gibson, S. Regulating Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs in the Digital Age. Laws 2014, 3, 410-438.

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