Canada Strives for Commercial-free Drug Messaging

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Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - January/February 2009,

Province-wide pilot program to launch in spring

In what may be Canada’s largest experiment yet on academic detailing—the practice of healthcare professionals unaffiliated with drug companies updating doctors on available treatments—the Ontario Ministry of Health has issued a request for proposals to provide a province-wide pilot program. The proposal deadline is March 13, 2009, and the program may begin as early as May 1. It is expected to run for three years.


The health ministry has three objectives, according to spokesperson Andrew Morrison. The first is to provide physicians with objective, evidence-based comparative drug information. The second is to encourage use of the most therapeutically appropriate and cost-effective medications for each patient. Reducing drug expenditures in Ontario is the third objective.

The unstated objective behind the program, as well as other recent Canadian academic detailing initiatives, is to provide doctors current drug information that is free of commercial and off-label-use messages. “Academic detailing provides balanced messages in the face of perceived commercial influence of pharmaceutical company detailing,” according to a ministry document.

Canada has conducted similar academic-detailing initiatives in the past. In the U.S., the Independent Drug Information Service, brainchild of Harvard Med School faculty (and industry critic) Dr. Jerry Avorn, continues to perform academic detailing under a contract with the State of Pennsylvania.