Home > Property & Casualty > FDA suggests social media standards for pharma and med device companies

FDA suggests social media standards for pharma and med device companies

fda_twitterThe FDA issued a pair of guidelines on Tuesday for pharmaceutical and medical device companies regarding the use of social media and internet communication for medical products. While other industries, including financial services , retail and real estate have immersed themselves in using social media as a marketing tool,  pharmaceutical companies have been slower to embrace the trend, due to strict regulatory and privacy laws. But as technology continues to drive consumer and patient behavior – a 2013 study found that one in four interactions with doctors, healthcare professionals and patients in the U.S. is digital – the FDA recognizes a need to adapt to these changes and in turn, establish industry best practices for social media use. The long-awaited guidance aims to provide consumers with more accurate, accessible information online, and proposes guidelines for pharmaceutical and medical device companies about how to correct misinformation posted online by others.

The first set addresses the use of social media sites where character spacing is limited, such as Twitter. The FDA advises companies to post the benefits and risk information in order to present a balanced and fair description of the product. For sites like Twitter, which only allow 140 characters, the FDA provided an example of an acceptable tweet for a hypothetical memory loss drug, NoFocus:

“NoFocus for mild to moderate memory loss; may cause seizures in patients with a seizure disorder http://www.nofocus.com/risk“.  The FDA requires that companies spell out the exact indication of products, such as specifying in the example above that the drug is used for “mild to moderate” memory loss and cannot be labeled simply as a “memory loss” drug.

The guidelines also recommend companies include hyperlinks in posts that take viewers to the company’s website which lists a full description of the product, and provides forums for consumer discussion and reviews. Once an initial post has been made, companies may issue reminder promotions and advertisements where only the name of the product is displayed.

The second set of guidelines regulates how companies correct misinformation posted by third parties on social media sites. In these cases, the FDA said it would not require companies to post a full list of benefits and risks or side-affects associated with the product, so long as the corrections are clearly defined and accurate, and provided that the misinformation has not been posted by a company employee or affiliate firm. Companies would be prohibited from removing any comment or post on social media that portrays a product in a negative light, nor could they alter posts in order to make a product appear safer or more appealing. The guidance grants companies permission to post corrected information on the social media platform, or submit the corrections to the individual author of the post, and states that companies are not held accountable if those individuals fail to correct the information.

Stay tuned for updates about the development of these guidelines and how future industry changes are implemented.


About the Author

Amy Sinclair is an Executive Vice President and co-leader of the Life Sciences Practice in WGA’s Property and Casualty Group. She negotiates, implements and manages comprehensive insurance programs for a variety of clients, ranging from venture-backed start-up organizations up to publicly traded companies.

617.646.0229 | Asinclair@wgains.com | Connect with Amy on LinkedIn
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