HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Monday, August 15, 2011

Social Media and Drug Promotion

For some time the FDA has been working on guidelines relating to the "Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools." Along the way there have been public hearings, here, and missed deadlines, here. In the meantime pharmaceutical companies have been able to promote their wares online in relative safety thanks to a safe harbor provided by Facebook. Specifically, Facebook allowed pharmaceutical product pages to have comments turned off. Starting today that privilege has been revoked and the drug pages must have "open" Walls. The issues that arise are comprehensively explored by Christian Torres in the Washington Post, here. In brief, allowing others to inject praise on a drug's page could upset the FDA's requirement that marketing be balanced and, potentially, open the door to users posting about off-label uses, and impacting the manufacturer's duty to report adverse events (presumably by requiring proactive monitoring of critical posts). Given that there is something of a regulatory vacuum, product pages are disappearing faster than you can click "like." There is even a "Deathwatch" site, here, that is keeping track of the pages that the pharmaceutical companies have taken down. [NPT]

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