Health protection in Canada under threat, says expert witness in Charter challenge on prescription drug advertising


For immediate release

Toronto (Monday, February 25, 2008) – An expert witness in the Charter challenge case on prescription drug advertising between Canwest Mediaworks Inc. and the Attorney General of Canada is speaking out about the case and the potential threat it poses to drug safety and public health care in Canada.

Dr. John Abramson, Harvard Medical School clinical instructor and author of “Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine” is the expert witness representing a broad coalition of unions and citizen groups in Canada that was granted intervener status in the court challenge. His presentation “Drug ads: Is corporate free speech more important than your health?" will be part of a public event at the University of Toronto on Tuesday, March 4, 2008.

“This Charter challenge marks a critically important crossroad for the Canadian people—whether greater priority will be given to maximizing corporate free speech or optimizing Canadians’ health and containing their health care costs,” says Dr. Abramson. “The drug industry now produces most of the medical science that informs doctors’ decisions. Their fundamental responsibility is not to the public’s health, but to their shareholder’s wealth.”

CanWest Mediaworks mounted the Charter challenge to the statutory prohibition on direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs in 2005 on the basis that the current regulations on DTCA in Canada infringe on the company’s right to freedom of expression. The case will be argued before the Superior Court of Ontario in June 2008. On behalf of the coalition, Dr. Abramson has presented evidence on the particular impact of DTCA on women. “There are lessons to be learned from the United States where DTCA’s fundamental purpose is already being realized: to increase revenues from drug sales often at considerable risk to consumer health and well-being,” says Dr. Abramson.

Members of the coalition represented by Dr. Abramson include the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Health Coalition, Women and Health Protection, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the Society for Diabetic Rights, the Medical Reform Group and Terence Young. Lawyer, Steven Shrybman with the law firm, Sack, Goldblatt, Mitchell is providing legal representation for the coalition.

Dr. Abramson will present “Drug ads: Is corporate free speech more important than your health?" on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 7:30 pm at Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle at the University of Toronto. The public is welcome to attend.


Anne Rochon Ford, Women and Health Protection, 416-712-9459, Website:
Ellen Reynolds, Canadian Women’s Health Network, 250-208-4889, E-mail:


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