Use caution when wrangling with FDA's social media regulations

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began issuing regulatory guidance on pharmaceutical marketing activities within social media, many manufacturers were relieved that they would finally have the chance to branch out into digital interactive media. Consumers have integrated social media into their daily lives and pharmaceutical marketers must be willing to meet their clients on that level.

However, even after successive draft guidances, the FDA has yet to issue a single, exhaustive source of regulatory information that pharmaceutical marketers can follow for penalty-free interactions with customers. Organizations can ill-afford to ignore social media platforms and expect to keep up with competitors, which is why targeted marketing materials with expertly crafted language can help pharma marketers navigate the murky waters of social media.

Tacking on more
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the FDA's social media guidance is the piecemeal nature in which the agency has released regulatory information to pharmaceutical companies. The first draft guidance was released in June 2014, with the second coming at the end of September. Some parts of these regulations seem to conflict, such as a heavy emphasis on complete and accurate important safety information in the June update, but InTheCapital explained that organizations could also be held liable for misinformation on their products posted by a third party. 

The operative word in the FDA's approach to social media may seem to be "guidance," but some companies are finding out that activity on certain websites like Pinterest could be against FDA regulations even though the agency has yet to make any kind of official ruling. The Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society explained that two nutritional supplement companies, dōTERRA International and Young Living, recently received warning letters from the FDA for posts to Pinterest. The agency cited misinformation about both company's products, such as peppermint oil curing asthma, autism and cold sores.

Getting social media right
Pharmaceutical marketers are almost stuck in an impossible position when it comes to social media - they cannot afford to do without it, but they are not quite sure how to avoid FDA penalties. In these cases, a health education service that crafts concise and accessible language with a strict eye for detail might be the player that the pharma marketing industry needs.

The FDA is unlikely to release comprehensive information on best practices on social media in the near future, so the best pharma can hope for is targeted, easy-to-understand marketing information written for web optimization. With the right marketing agency, even 140-character tweets can contain ISI and a branded message.