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16 November 2016
On October 4 2016 the Competition Bureau announced the release of its report on advertising restrictions in healthcare services. The bureau analysed advertising restrictions in some of Canada's healthcare industries and surveyed a broad cross-section of provincial regulations governing pharmaceutical, dental and veterinarian services across Canada.
It found that most regulators of these services tend to restrict advertising in some form, but that there is insufficient evidence to assess whether these restrictions are achieving their policy objectives. The report reviewed economic literature showing that reducing or removing advertising restrictions does not lead to consumers experiencing lower quality in services, and could allow them to benefit from lower prices. However, the bureau found that the data necessary to conduct similar studies is not readily accessible in Canada.
The report calls on governments and self-regulatory bodies to begin collecting and compiling information on marketplace outcomes in Canada's healthcare markets, and to move towards greater emphasis on empirical evidence in decision making. Such data could then be made available to researchers, which would allow evidence-based assessments to be made of the suitability of advertising restrictions.
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