CUPE has asked to be part of the defense of Canada’s laws against advertising prescription drugs.
CanWest MediaWorks, which owns more than 65 newspapers, TV and radio stations and websites, is looking to ease Canadian broadcasting regulations on several issues including the ban on advertising prescription drugs.
For CanWest, the issue is that all the American TV shows the network broadcasts - which are created to include as much as 50 per cent advertising - need more filler in Canada where broadcast regulations limit advertising to 12 minutes per hour.
So CanWest is looking for the right to include more advertising and is looking, in part, to the US where they can import ads for pharmaceuticals along with the “content”. The restrictions on advertising are a “freedom of expression” issue and “discrimination” against Canadian broadcasters.
For CUPE, the issue is rising drug costs, and the role advertising plays in driving up demand for expensive and unnecessary drugs. Prescription drug costs jumped 62.3% between 1994 and 2004.
Doctors are under tremendous pressure from pharmaceutical companies - who spend more than $20,000 per doctor per year pushing their products. Being able to market to consumers would bring the hype to a whole new level.
CanWest has filed a motion in the Ontario Superior Court to overturn the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations that ban direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs.
They’ve also applied to the CRTC to relax limits on the ratio of ads to content on television and to relax restrictions on other forms of ads like sponsorships, and product placement.
CUPE along with the Canadian Health Coalition and other unions have asked the court for intervenor status which would give us the opportunity to share our concerns with the court.