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FDA Opens Up Social Media to Pharma Companies with New Guidelines

When it comes to social media in the pharma [[wysiwyg_imageupload:174:]]
space, PR and communications professionals have fought a very long and laborious battle. Fortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally come through with new and officially issued guidance for pharma's interactive marketing activities online. While this certainly clarity to an otherwise dark and restrictive social media-pharma terrain, there are a few bumps along the way to keep in mind.

First and foremost, there is no denying that the somewhat unrestricted freedom to tweet, post, blog, pin, etc. is right in line with where the future of real-time reporting and health PR is headed. These guidelines will most likely lead to real-time interactive marketing initiatives quickly slipping into PR strategies for pharma companies, both big and small.

Thankfully, the tedious submissions to legal and regulatory teams can now be bypassed to revitalize the famously extinct social media efforts in the drug business. Let's face it, before this renewed hope with the FDA's recent guidelines, pharma companies had more or less chalked off any substantial emphasis on social media.

However, before you breathe too big a sigh of relief, submissions cannot be avoided completely (but you expected that, this is the FDA we are dealing with!). Companies are required to submit monthly reports to the FDA with links to all content posted on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other emerging platforms. The good news is that no screen shots are required as long as you provide correct links to the content. This makes the process that much easier.

To get into the nitty-gritty of things, the guidelines cover “interactive promotional media,” meaning “tools and technologies for real-time communications and interactions,” including social networks, microblogs, blogs, online communities, and live podcasts.

This doesn't mean that the companies are completely off the hook. According to the FDA, firms are responsible for all promotional content on any site or account owned or otherwise controlled by the firm, including  messages posted by the company to its account on Facebook, Twitter and the company’s own blogs.

One of the biggest upsides of these guidelines is the increased flexibility in interactions between drugmakers and patients without worry of the FDA slamming down its gavel on user submitted comments and feedback. With the drug companies not required to submit every user comment for regulatory review, the dynamic, real-time qualities offered by social media should be harnessed effectively. This interaction may also help drug companies appear more human rather than the villainous, giant, faceless corporations they are generally perceived to be. Social media may prove to be a powerful tool in changing that perception if used correctly.

The possibility of successfully marrying pharma and social media is finally more than just a distant dream. Drug companies and PR professionals should waste no time in putting on their thinking hats and brushing up on their social media skills. Tread carefully on this unchartered land of interactive opportunities though, the FDA can be a tough critic.

Do you plan on using social media with pharma companies? Let us know of any innovative campaigns following the FDA’s guidelines.

-Read the full FDA guidance document for details.