Last week brought an exciting new development for pharmaceutical companies interested in social media: blogger Mark Senak (EyeonFDA.com) posted an interview with an official from the FDA/Division for Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications (DDMAC) about pharmas and Web 2.0. Until now, there has been so little mention of social media and the like from the FDA that many pharma companies have come to assume that Web 2.0 is strictly off-limits. The conversation that was started this week -- though by no means the final word on whether and how pharmas can engage in social media -- is a good starting point to help change that perception.
The big takeaway: The FDA does not prohibit pharmaceutical companies from engaging in social media. This is sure to bring a sigh of relief from brand managers who have wanted to take advantage of Web 2.0 but have been afraid of getting shot down by the FDA or by their own legal teams, who have understandably been very conservative on the issue in the absence of clear guidelines from the FDA. The important thing for pharmas to remember is fair balance in all communications, according to Dr. Jean Ah Kang, Special Assistant to Tom Abrams at DDMAC in charge of Web 2.0 policy development; like in other communications, information about a drug's efficacy must be balanced with information on its risks.
The FDA won't yet share its thinking on a process for further defining how pharmas should interact with the social media environment, other than to "recognize that this medium is here to stay." I have had several conversations recently with clients who are ready to move beyond social media listening and are wondering how they can engage in the environment. Could the FDA's simple acknowledgment be enough to open the door to a world of change and opportunity for pharmaceutical companies? We will be watching to see.