May 14, 2001

Beware of "Ad/Vice"
Stemming the tide of pharmaceutical marketing


Canadian and American women's health activists, physicians and academics gathered at Mount Saint Vincent University this past weekend to discuss their growing concerns about the harmful effects of pharmaceutical control over our health. Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) - legal in the U.S. and illegal in Canada according to the Food and Drugs Act - was a rallying cry for Canada's Working Group on Women and Health Protection and the U.S. "Putting People First Collaborative." They concluded their weekend workshop with an agreement to work jointly on the following problem:

  1. People increasingly want health and drug information they can trust.
  2. We currently do not have readily accessible INDEPENDENT sources of drug information. More than 100,000 people die annually in North America from the ill effects of prescription drugs and scores more suffer related harms.
  3. The pharmaceutical industry has come along to fill the void with prescription drug advertising directed at the public that is both misleading and harmful to our health. Advertising is not education.

The participants also discussed these related concerns:

  1. New drugs are not necessarily better drugs and it is new drugs that are being advertised directly to the public.
  2. Advertising of prescription drugs is one of the main factors driving up the cost of prescription drugs in both countries.
  3. A disturbing trend towards treating risk rather than disease has been taking hold in both countries and sets a dangerous precedent for public health.
  4. An ethic of managing risk must be replaced by one of applying the precautionary principle. Our focus must be on preventing problems at source.

The following individuals are available for interviews:

Sharon Batt, Nancy's Chair in Women's Studies,
Mount Saint Vincent University (Halifax)
Tel: 902-457-6257  E-mail:

Anne Rochon Ford, Coordinator,
the Working Group on Women and Health Protection (Toronto)
Tel: 416-482-6591  E-mail:

Judy Norsigian, Executive Director,
Boston Women's Health Book Collective (Boston)
Tel: 617-625-0277, ext. 103

Barbara Brenner
Breast Cancer Action (San Francisco)
Tel: 415-243-9301  E-mail:


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Supported by the Women's Health Contribution Program,
administered by the Gender and Health Unit of Health Canada.

In partnership with The Canadian Women's Health Network.