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Benefits and Risks of Drug Information on Social Media
Social media has changed the way people and organizations communicate. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have demonstrated that they can be effective tools for widespread communication of emergency instructions during natural disasters and in organizing political change in countries with censored media. Social media outlets, however, have limitations when asked to deliver complex, technical information. In addition, the open platform nature of the Internet presents challenges for companies trying to maintain correct information about their products online.
Noting that patients and healthcare providers regularly get information about medical products through social media outlets, FDA in June proposed two draft guidances that share the agency’s current thinking about how drug and medical device manufacturers can accurately communicate about their products online.
So many words, so few characters
In the guidance, FDA notes: “… regardless of the platform, truthful, accurate, non-misleading, and balanced product promotion best serves the public health. For some products, particularly those with complex indications or extensive serious risks, character space limitations imposed by platform providers may not enable meaningful presentations of both benefit and risk … If an accurate and balanced presentation of both risks and benefits of a specific product is not possible within the constraints of the platform, then the firm should reconsider using that platform for the intended promotional message.”
If a firm voluntarily and truthfully undertakes the correction of misinformation that is within the scope of the guidance, “FDA does not intend to object if these voluntary corrections do not satisfy otherwise applicable regulatory requirements, if any,” the draft guidance reads.
In a blog post (3), Thomas Abrams, director of FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, noted that the agency sees social media as an important resource and is committed to developing additional guidance for drug manufacturers, with the best interests of the patient in mind.
However, the task of maintaining proper information about regulated products in an unregulated environment may be too great a challenge for FDA or drug companies to manage.
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