What We'd "Like": FDA's Social Media Guidance

What We'd "Like": FDA's Social Media Guidance

08.16.11 | By Kate Connors

Until yesterday, biopharmaceutical research companies were allowed to disable comments from users on certain Facebook pages. This helped companies ensure that those pages were sources of accurate information, though it meant they were removing some ability to engage the public in a dialogue. Disabling comments also helped them avoid what the Wall Street Journal called "a minefield" of potential regulatory issues that the FDA has raised.

For example, having open comments means users could post unvalidated information about off-label uses of medicines, according to The Washington Post. Conversely, companies themselves promote their products using only FDA-regulated information online. What's more, the FDA has not clarified whether companies should be held responsible for the comments on third parties posted on company-controlled Web sites; the government promised a relevant guidance on these issues in 2009.

In fact, yesterday's announcement about Facebook's new policy only served to underscore the importance of the FDA's long-time forthcoming guidance.

It's no secret that the internet plays an ever-growing role in health care, with patients looking online for information about their symptoms, treatment options, and even advice from other patients. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of American adults (and 80 percent of internet users) look online for health information.

That's precisely why we need the information that is online to be as accurate as possible, while still fostering an environment that encourages the sharing of information.

After all, the FDA is quite active online, with Facebook and several Twitter accounts. Our companies aim to be able to be just as engaged in discussions about health and science as the agency that regulates them, because we thoroughly believe that better information can ultimately lead to better health. To that end, we continue to wait for FDA's guidance, and to hope that it comes soon.

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