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Health Canada’s New XML Product Monograph for Drug Information. What you need to know and do.

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A quick look back

In 2016, Health Canada announced its intention to adopt a structured format for its drug product information. The move would affect product monograph preparation, electronic submission, and approval processes for human prescription drugs. The transition does not have any impact on human OTC drugs, veterinary drugs, natural health products, and medical food and devices.

In harmonization with international data standards, Health Canada selected the HL7 Structured Product Labeling (SPL) standard for its product monograph submissions. The program initially named Structured Product Monograph (SPM), fell under the agency’s Health Products and Food Branch (HPFB), the department responsible for regulating and ensuring the safety of drug products.

Over the next four years, HPFB authored SPM documentation, developed infrastructure, and performed testing in collaboration with an industry focus group, which Reed Tech joined in partnership with two large international drug product manufacturers.

Health Canada is now confirming their readiness to launch the transition from unstructured product monograph to XML Product Monograph (PM) format. They will start to accept drug information in XML PM 2016 format on a “by request” basis April 1 to July 31, 2020. In Fall 2020, a full production launch is anticipated with the mandatory requirement in the Spring of 2021.

Why the change to XML PM?

Under the existing system, drug product monographs are submitted in unstructured formats (e.g., MS Word, PDF). To publish this information to its public Drug and Health Product Register, HPFB must convert the content of each monograph manually into XHTML. This process is labor-intensive and cannot deliver many of the benefits of a structured and standardized format such as SPL.

A structured format allows for automatic validation and publishing. It can leverage a controlled vocabulary to standardize terminology and data becomes much easier to search and analyze. It also brings Canada in line with other countries by leveraging an international document standard (SPL). By adopting the SPL standard, Health Canada has also made it faster and simpler for technology providers to adapt their existing solutions for the Health Canada XML PM implementation, rather than starting from scratch. This change means companies distributing drug products in Canada will be able to meet this mandate more quickly and smoothly by selecting a technology partner, such as Reed Tech, with established expertise in the SPL realm.

Health Canada is also looking at this initiative to increase efficiency and provide Canadians with more relevant and concise drug product information, which will make it easier for patients and prescribers to interpret.

Similarities and differences to the FDA SPL Program

Scope – FDA’s adoption of SPL began in 2005 with only human prescription drugs and has expanded over the years to 60+ submission types. Health Canada is taking a similar first step, applying XML PM to only human prescription drugs. Human over-the-counter and animal health products are currently not in scope.

Controlled Vocabularies – There are approximately 30 Health Canada controlled vocabulary lists, which overlap in some places with FDA’s lists, but are mostly unique. The eventual target is to align these terminologies with international standards, e.g., ISO Identification of Medicinal Products (IDMP).

Implementation Guide and Stylesheet – Health Canada has published their own version of implementation guides and developed their own stylesheet to render human-readable presentations of XML PM content.

Language – the Health Canada XML PM content will be required in both English and French.

 

Health Canada timeline

More details on timing and procedures can be found in the January 13, 2020 launch notice from Health Canada.

What you can do now

Reed Tech has been participating in the pilot activities with Health Canada and key pharma manufacturers since the initial kick-off in 2017, attending meetings and providing our expertise in SPL to help test, evaluate, and provide feedback on the new Health Canada XML PM draft guidance, stylesheets, and schema versions.

We have provided Structured Product Labeling (SPL) services for U.S. FDA drug labeling to more than 1,000 pharmaceutical companies since 2005.  We can support your conversions of product monographs to the XML PM format as required by Health Canada.

Let us help you through this new transition by contacting us at pharma@reedtech.com. Or give us a call at 215.682.8269 and talk to one of our XML specialists.  We can answer your questions and walk you through the process.

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