Shannon Gibson

Shannon Gibson

Master of Laws Student

University of Toronto

Research Description

In recent years, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have transformed the way that the world communicates. Although the pharmaceutical industry has lagged behind other sectors in capitalizing on this new medium (largely due to a lack of guidance from regulators on acceptable use of social media technologies), all the major pharmaceutical players are now making significant investments in social media technologies.  Although Health Canada has recognized that such emerging technologies introduce a new dynamic to compliance and enforcement activities (e.g. user generated content, targeted marketing and viral marketing), they have not yet made any move to clarify the issue. 


Regulators must respond to the pharmaceutical industry’s burgeoning interest in capitalizing on the social media boom, especially since many current marketing campaigns appear to violate existing regulations. But the response should not simply be limited to restricting or regulating DTCA via social media. After all, social media is equally available to health care professionals, advocacy groups, government and consumers as a tool to spread their own health information and such resources should be developed as an alternative to pharmaceutical industry promotion. 


This project explores how the evolution of Internet technologies and the advent of social media have impacted the direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs in Canada; examines how existing regulations of DTCA translate into the social media sphere; and discusses possible regulatory responses to the use of DTCA in social media and makes recommendations about the best options for regulating this new media.


Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Fellowship in Health Law, Ethics and Policy (2011-2012)
Irving K. Barber One World Scholarship for study abroad (2008)
Law Foundation of British Columbia Entrance Scholarship (2006)