The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires pharmaceutical marketers to mention both the benefits and the risks of a given drug in direct-to-consumer advertisements and other types of promotion. But in the case of social media, pharmaceutical companies face tight character limitations which could prevent them fulfilling this requirement.
Now, the FDA is thinking about allowing drugmakers to provide a link to the drug’s risks in their posts. In order to test whether this strategy would be effective at communicating risk/benefit information to consumers, the regulatory agency plans to test the approach in four different studies.
The purpose of these studies will be to determine how well participants retain risk information for a fictitious prescription drug, after seeing it presented in two different formats. Two studies will show the risk information in a Google-sponsored link, and two will present the same information on Twitter, which has a 140-character limit.
The FDA has already speculated about the results of these studies. They believe that participants who view a tweet containing risk information will show greater retention, compared to the group presented with the Google-sponsored link.
While social media platforms like Twitter are seeing increased interest from pharmaceutical companies, few currently use their accounts for product promotion. Depending on the outcome of the FDA’s marketing studies, drugmarkers could see improved guidance on social media promotion, potentially allowing them to make better use of the tool.
According to draft guidance released in 2014, the FDA currently requires pharmaceutical marketers to present balanced risk/benefit information in the same post. They are also required to provide direct access to exhaustive safety information for the prescription drug.