Giving Pharma a Voice on the Web

These days, it’s common for consumers to discuss drugs and treatments on health care social networks like WebMD, as well as on general social networks like Twitter.

Yet the pharmaceutical industry has thus far been unable to participate in social media — not because they are prohibited by law, but because there is a lack of clear regulatory guidelines for marketing on social networks and other web sites.

Still, in April, the FDA sent warning letters to 14 companies, claiming they violated regulations regarding presentation of fair balance in search engine ads, according to AdvertisingAge.

To help solve this problem, Buy Generic Drugs Without Prescription the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represents the pharmaceutical industry, has proposed creating a universal logo to be placed on social media sites. The logo would indicate the information that meets FDA guidelines for fair balance.

In a recent post on the Groundswell Blog, Josh Bernoff stresses the need for such a measure and voices his support for the PhRMA proposal:

In one case in my research, a pharma company employee begged me to take down a reference to a site her company had sponsored – the logo was right there on the site – even though the company had provided an unrestricted grant and did not influence content in any way.

[The proposal to create a universal logo] is an ideal way out of the current state. The logo should be prominent. Furthermore, I think pharma companies should moderate and appropriately respond to social activity, including blocking off-label suggestions and following up on adverse effects. This works now for GSK’s alli community, which exists only because alli is an over-the-counter drug and therefore is not subjected to the same level of scrutiny by the FDA.

Sure it’s expensive to do this moderation, but alli shows it can be done, and effectively. Pharma companies are enthusiastic about social media but terrified by the lack of FDA rules, which means they never know if they’ll be cited for inappropriate behavior. It’s time for the FDA to indicate what behavior is appropriate, including moderation and the logo linking to fair-balance information. Then people who need information about medications will be able to benefit from peer content. It’s a lot better idea than leaving all that peer content on unregulated sites, and allowing pharma only with ads with pages of small print disclaimers. How 20th century!

Read the full Groundswell blog post on pharma social media.

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