Clarification regarding digitization of APS: Helping healthcare product manufacturers plan for the evolving COVID-19 operational context.

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  • Hi there,

    I was hoping to clarify a few points in the document.

    Print APS being revised to digital APS (e.g., PDF, HTML content within an email, etc.) with no changes to copy, layout, flow, functionality, proportions etc. can be done without re-engaging PAAB, however, the email that is used to disseminate the newly revised digital APS will need to go to PAAB. The point I’m hoping to clarify is the template option described in the document.

    1. This would mean that one client could get a generic subject line approved and send waves of promotional digital APS attachments using this template (being sure not to disseminate branded and unbranded/corporate APS in the same email), correct?

    2. a) Do you have any guidance on what types of subject lines could be considered for such a template that would be approvable via PAAB? Would we be looking at “Company X updates”, or "Product X information" or something similar?
      b). I also assume that if client was only looking to have different subject lines for each APS that is being disseminated, then each email would have to be approved by PAAB individually?

    Thanks very much for the clarification!

  • Great questions @NGhamami

    1. Confirmed
    2. Confirmed (subject lines)
      A) Your understanding is correct. “Company X updates” is a good example.
      B) Confirmed, that would prompt individual submissions

    Please let us know if there are any more questions and if anyone can think of additional examples for 2.a please share with the community.

  • Good evening, thank you for the proactive communication on digitization. Two additional questions:

    1. if teams wish to now change a print tool to a digital one and content gets modified/moved around, can we maintain the same file numbers without re-starting the process? And without cost implications to our clients?

    2. Thinking longer term, if we continue our print tools as usual, but cannot deliver to client nor reps in the event of a more stringent isolation/lockdown, what flexibility will we have with regards to PAAB approval and expiry dates for usage when we return to some version of 'business as usual'?

    Please let me know if anything unclear. Thank you in advance. Stay safe.

  • Hi,

    I was wondering if the time for review of these email will be 10 days or shorter due to the current situation.


  • Hey @Lisa

    Thanks for the questions. Here are some further clarifications:

    1. Content changes to ongoing APS could be resubmitted for review under the same file number providing there are only small modifications/moving of content. If there are large changes such as additional functionality, (e.g. tabs, buttons), a new file may be requested. If the piece has already been approved, it will require submission as a new file for any post approval changes consistent with usual PAAB policy. In both scenarios, if a new file is required, please reference the past file numbers to facilitate review. We will do our best to expedite the review for you if you let us know which of your submissions to prioritize. The simpler the changes, the sooner we can provide a response. We suggest noting the request in the submission letter AND in a separate email to so that our admin team notifies the reviewer. If there are multiple submissions of this sort for a product, submit them on the same day to take advantage of the series fee.
    2. For ongoing files that reach approval stage, we can start the approval period up to three months post approval. If it is a new submission, set your date of first use on the submission form accordingly. That way you’ll still likely get the full-year approval period. Note that we also have an extension policy for extenuating circumstances. Should social distancing persist well into the future, we’ll consider what can be done from an extension perspective.

  • Hello @Karine

    As always, PAAB will do its best to achieve timely reviews based on workload. In 2019, our average time to first response was 6 days. As mentioned above, quoting backfiles and advising admin of priority files will help facilitate our timelines.

    Thank you for reaching out.

    1. For the generic email, can the representative send the digitized APS unsolicited as an FYI (i.e., a HCP request is not required; a meeting did not need to be on the books)

    2. Do they need to be scheduling a meeting to discuss the APS within the email? or is a blanket sentence like “let me know if you have any questions/comments about the attachment” sufficient?

    3. Can the company send the email with the digitized APS to HCP’s for whom they have consent; the correspondence comes from the company and not the individual representatives.

    4. Can we submit 1 generic email to PAAB that has free text places for either brand OR disease in the same email.

    5. 1 generic email for subject [Brand] OR [disease] Update: Rep can only include the brand or the disease and not both.
      OR do we need to submit 1 unbranded and 1 branded generic email?

  • Hello,
    We are intending to develop a generic, unbranded email so we can attach branded or unbranded content (via separate emails as you have indicated) and send to HCPs. If we attached branded content, do we need to include the fair balance and indication content appropriate for the attachment in the covering email too, or is it sufficient this appears in the attachment alone? Thank you.

  • This post is deleted!

  • Thanks @Donna, please see responses below:

    1. Yes – As per the first paragraph under “Dissemination” : “Emails used to distribute digitized APS in an unsolicited fashion DO NOT fall under the person-to-person correspondence exemptions in the PAAB code or advertising regulation exemptions in the Health Canada Policy Document “The Distinction Between Advertising and Other Activities”. These emails with attached APS are subject to PAAB review"
    2. There is no need to schedule a meeting within the email. However, a sentence similar to the above could be considered if the manufacturer wishes.
    3. This is an activity. We would recommend consulting your internal legal department. PAAB reviews the content to ensure it is inline with advertising regulations.
    4. No – As per the second sentence of the second paragraph under “Dissemination”, “It can include free text portions for transactional elements (e.g. greeting, date and time of phone meeting, sign-off)." Free text is not an option for brand or disease information. Please see PAAB Q&A 748
    5. Two separate submissions would be required.

  • Thanks @philippacrabb.

    In the submitted file, you will be showing how the attachments will look and feel. In the document above, you will also note the statement “The submission of the email template should include detailed information regarding the naming convention for email attachments." PAAB will comment on the naming convention if there are concerns. To minimize the requirements for the full fair balance within the body of the email, ensure that the PDF names are claim neutral. This means, think of it the same way as you would a subject line. “Brand efficacy profile” “Brand safety profile”, “Learn about the MOA of Brand” would all be neutral copy which would not prompt the inclusion of fair balance within the body of the email. However, an attachment name similar to “Brand arthritis efficacy LB” would require indication and fair balance in the body of the email.

  • @Jennifer-Carroll With regards to naming conventions, are we required to submit a full, exact list of all PDF names that are planned for distribution? Or is it sufficient to provide a generic outline of the naming system to be used, for example:

    "product name_document name_internal code.PDF"

    Thank you.

  • Hey @Einstein

    As mentioned in the guidance, “The submission of the email template should include detailed information regarding the naming convention for email attachments". As such, an exhaustive list would not be required. However, in your current example, “document name” does not provide sufficient information for assessment. As you can see in the example above, a document’s name could be “Brand arthritis efficacy LB” which has fair balance requirements that would need to be addressed in the email.

  • @Jennifer-Carroll Thanks very much! One last question about these email templates: do they have to bear the PAAB logo on the emails themselves, or is it sufficient that the attached APSs have the logo displayed?

  • Hey @Einstein

    The email templates should bear the PAAB logo to indicate that they have received independent review and approval.

  • Hi @Jennifer-Carroll,
    Can you clarify if there is any guidance on proximity between branded and unbranded communications? As we understand that branded and unbranded tools require separate emails.

  • Hey @AmandaM
    The PAAB has not created a specific set of guidance on proximity as there are multiple factors which could weigh into the decision of proximity creating linkage. As a general principle, the sponsor should be able to make the argument that the pieces (branded and unbranded) are not linked in any way, including but not limited to temporal and physical proximity. With this in mind, when thinking about proximity, it would be hard to defend that emails sent sequentially within an hour are not linked. However, emails sent days apart would present less risk of being linked. The PAAB can provide an opinion on ‘standard practice rules’ set up by the sponsor.

  • Hi @Jennifer-Carroll,

    If we've already received full approval of our email template, but are now submitting a new APS (e.g., one-page PDF) that a client would like to be able to email out using that template, do we have to resubmit the template as a new file (even though nothing else has changed) or can we just include the what would be the "attachment name" in the new APS' submission cover letter?

    Similarly, if one of the files that we had specified in the email template is expiring, but is renewed/updated slightly, do we have to resubmit the email template, or just include mention that it "replaces efile 9XXXX in the email template (efile 10XXXX)" in the renewal's submission cover letter? (given that we always confirm that APS will only be disseminated within their approval periods anyways)

    Thanks very much in advance!

  • Great question @jen_antibody

    Assuming that the email template was submitted to meet the restrictions outlined in the second paragraph under “Dissemination” above, you would not be required to resubmit the template. Yes, you should provide the “attachment name” within it’s submission and convey that the intent is to disseminate through the approved template (efile #).

    No, you are not required to resubmit the template due to updates to pieces which were previously listed through the template.

    Let us know if you have any further questions.