First Published July 10th, 2018
The federal government is stepping up its regulatory scrutiny of opioid manufacturers and signalling that it will abandon its traditional co-operative approach to addressing any misleading promotional practices in Canada.
As part of a series of new measures, the government says it is creating a compliance and enforcement team to monitor opioid manufacturers, enforce the rules against improper drug promotion and take action where necessary, including recommending criminal charges.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says the industry’s marketing can “unduly influence” doctors, leading to the overprescribing of opioids. The acknowledgment comes as a national epidemic of opioid overdoses worsens. Nearly 4,000 Canadians died of opioid-related overdoses in 2017, up 34 per cent from the previous year.
In addition to the new enforcement team, Ms. Petitpas Taylor has also called on pharmaceutical companies to stop promoting opioids. So far, a dozen opioid manufacturers have suspended activities such as sales representatives’ visits to doctors and ads in medical journals, including Purdue Pharma, whose pain pill triggered the epidemic.
Mathieu Filion, director of communications for Ms. Petitpas Taylor, said the minister’s call for a voluntary ban on marketing opioids does not “close the door” on the government taking legal action against Purdue or any other drug manufacturer for past practices.
“If we uncover evidence of past behaviour sufficient to pursue criminal charges, we will not hesitate to take action,” Mr. Filion said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.