You’d be hard-pressed to find an American company that’s not trying to create revenue via social media. But what if your industry regulated the use of Facebook, Twitter and the like? That’s the wall that pharmaceutical companies are up against as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deliberates how to regulate social media usage across the industry.
It’s impossible to watch TV without worrying that you’ll one day need medication that might cause shortness of breath, dizziness, or even death. That’s because pharmaceutical companies have more money than God, and they have spent it reversing the medication industry. Instead of a doctor telling you that you need Paxocilestra (made-up drug name), you are expected to go to your doctor and DEMAND Paxocilestra.
Promotion of these drugs has come a long way. In previous decades the best way to spread brand name awareness of a drug was to drop off 100 free pens emblazon with the script’s name at the local doctor’s office.
Social media now means big money, (just ask Ford or Coke) and the drug companies have had a hard time figuring our what they can or can’t get away with. Never the type to turn away a buck, the major pharmaceuticals are hard at work trying to persuade the FDA to write new laws that make it easier for drug companies to reach consumers.
A few items up for debate that could impact your life include:
– To mandate short URLs or a universal symbol that clicks people over to a full list of a drug’s side effects. With contextual ads and Twitter updates so brief, and everything truncated to down to the size of a pea, the drug manufacturers want a blanket policy that will cover their collective ass.
– Who is responsible for user comments? What if a message board poster of blogger claims a drug was responsible for a friend’s death. Can the drug company respond? Should they be forced to reply?
– Pay for play. Can a blogger talk about a drug and be compensated? Is disclosure (legally) required?
– You already know that information on the Web moves at breakneck speeds. Years ago you would have to subscribe to medical trade magazines to learn about current projects and experimentation. Today, drug companies can prematurely talk about breakthroughs and reach millions of people in seconds. This can cause false hope for patients and put pressure on the FDA to approve certain drugs (when people will clamor for a drug without having the full story).
False medical claims are running rampant on the Web. Just check your inbox and the cure for just about anything awaits.
The FDA is expected to release social media guidelines later this year. Stay tuned.