United States: Making Use Of Social Media: FDA Releases Two Draft Guidelines On The Use Of Social Media Platforms By Drug And Device Manufacturers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released two long-awaited draft guidance documents for the drug and device industries revolving around the use of social media platforms by drug and device manufacturers — Internet/Social Media Platforms: Correcting Independent Third Party Misinformation About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices ("Guidance on Correcting Third Party Misinterpretation"), and Internet/Social Media Platforms with Character Space Limitations – Presenting Risk and Benefit Information for Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices ("Guidance on Presenting Risk/Benefit Information").

As the titles suggest, the purpose of the documents is to clarify how social media may be utilized by drug and medical device companies for the voluntary correction of misinformation provided by independent third parties, as well as for presenting promotional messaging regarding risk/benefit information of products. But while the guidelines provide helpful clarification regarding how such platforms may be utilized, they each also raise considerations that companies should take heed of before beginning to use these outlets, and should be factored into a company's social media guidelines.

Internet/Social Media Platforms: Correcting Independent Third Party Misinformation About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices

As an initial matter, the Guidance on Correcting Third Party Misinterpretation ("Draft Guidance #1") establishes two points: first, Draft Guidance #1 only applies to misinformation posted to Internet-based platforms by an independent third party, therefore excluding content provided by the company itself, its employees and agents. Second, Draft Guidance #1 establishes that the exception to a company's obligation to respond to or correct misinformation only applies to information that is "truly independent," for example posted by an independent third party to an unaffiliated platform or a platform providing content that is not controlled by the company.

However, Draft Guidance #1 does not completely exclude company-operated sites. In stark contrast with the company's obligation to correct content when that content is "owned, controlled, created ...influenced or affirmatively adopted or endorsed by, or on behalf of, the firm," where such corrections are obligatory and also carry advertising and labeling regulatory requirements, Draft Guidance #1 does not hold companies responsible for correcting misinformation where a company owns or operates an online platform that allows for user-generated content (chat room, etc.) over which a company does not exert control. However, Draft Guidance #1 cautions that such a site should contain an "overarching and conspicuous statement that the firm did not create or control the [user-generated content]."

If a company chooses to voluntarily respond to truly independent misinformation, Draft Guidance #1 sets parameters on the process for taking correction action, which should either be by (i) providing appropriate truthful corrective information or (ii) providing "a reputable source for correct information, such as the firm's contact information. In either approach, in order to constitute "appropriate corrective information" a firm's communication should denote the affiliation of the corrective post with the company, and be:

  • relevant and responsive to the misinformation;
  • limited and tailored to the misinformation;
  • non-promotional in nature, tone, and presentation;
  • accurate;
  • consistent with the FDA-required labeling for the product;
  • supported by sufficient evidence; and
  • posted either in conjunction with or reference the misinformation.

In acknowledgement of the vast nature of the Internet and certain forums and the reality that it may be impractical for a company to attempt to correct all misinformation about its products that may appear, Draft Guidance #1 stipulates that companies do not need to address all incorrect information that may be posted regarding a particular drug or device, even if a company elects to correct a selective portion. When addressing any misinformation, therefore, Draft Guidance #1 recommends that a company create a figurative box around the particular misinformation and portion of the forum it intends to correct, and then revise all the incorrect information within that defined boundary, which should include also correcting positive misinformation or exaggerations. Following corrective action, while Draft Guidance #1 does not hold companies responsible for monitoring the communication, it does recommend that companies keep records that include (i) the date, location, and content of the misinformation; (ii) when the wrongful information was discovered; and (iii) a description of the corrective information provided, including the date it was furnished.

Finally, Draft Guidance #1 suggests that the FDA does not intend to object if a firm voluntarily corrects misinformation and the voluntarily provided corrective information does not satisfy otherwise applicable regulatory labeling or advertising requirements, so long as the corrective information is not non-truthful, misleading, or in a manner other than recommended by Draft Guidance #1. However, companies should take heed that any corrective action that goes beyond merely providing accurate information that is specifically tailored to the misinformation it is addressing (i.e., including slogans or promotional information) must comply with applicable regulatory requirements related to labeling or advertising.

While helpful for establishing clearly both the parameters for correctly responding to misinformation as well as for clearly limiting a company's obligation to respond to any or all misinformation posted by an independent third party, the Guidance on Correcting Third Party Misinterpretation also reminds companies to take caution when doing so to ensure that their responses are narrowly tailored enough to fall under the purview of the guidance and outside regulatory requirements. That caution includes carefully considering where misinformation clearly constitutes "truly independent" information. Companies should be mindful of the reality that "truly independent" is not a concept that is well defined, and should thus be cautious before asserting that certain misinformation may fall under the purview of Draft Guidance #1 as the FDA advances a broad interpretation of when a company is responsible for taking corrective action.

Internet/Social Media Platforms with Character Space Limitations — Presenting Risk and Benefit Information for Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices

Prepared by the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion, the second guidance issued by the FDA last week, the Guidance on Presenting Risk/Benefit Information ("Draft Guidance #2"), addresses the parameters around presenting benefits and risks information on Internet and social media platforms with character spacing limitations, such as microblogs (e.g., Twitter) and online paid search (e.g., "sponsored links" on search engines such as Google). Draft Guidance #2 clearly establishes that, as a threshold matter, the character restrictions do not eliminate the company's responsibility to ensure its promotional messaging complies with all applicable regulations related to advertising and labeling, and cautions that such forms of media may not be appropriate for promotion of certain products, such as those with complex indications or risk profiles.

For companies that choose to make product benefit claims on character-space-limited communication sites, while each may reasonably use common abbreviations (including scientific and medical abbreviations), punctuation marks, and other symbols to comply with space constraints, Draft Guidance #2 presents a broad set of rules that must be satisfied by each communication relating to both risk and benefit information.

Benefit Information

  • Benefit information should be accurate, non-misleading, and reveal material facts within each individual message or tweet.
  • Benefit information should be included with risk information in the same message. Do not spread benefit and risk information across multiple messages or tweets.

Risk Information

  • Risk information should be included with benefit information in the same message. Do not spread risk and benefit information across multiple messages or tweets.
  • Risk information should be "comparable in scope" to the benefit information, and should, at minimum, include the most serious risks, e.g., those included in a boxed warning or known to be life-threatening, among others, associated with the product. To determine whether risk information is "comparable in scope" to the benefit information, the FDA weighs (i) whether the risk information "qualifies any representations made about the product," and (ii) whether the risk information is presented with a "prominence and readability comparable to the benefit claims about the product." While risk disclosures may be concise when paired with benefit information, a hyperlink to a complete, and exclusive, discussion of risks should be included and appropriately titled and not promotional in nature.
  • Both the proprietary and established (generic) name for the product should be included within the character-space limited communication and on each landing page associated with each hyperlink in that initial communication. Draft Guidance #2 recommends that the landing page be devoted exclusively to the communication of risk information about the product and not to the promotional home page. Such landing page should also prominently display quantitative ingredient and dosing information for prescription drugs.

In light of the restrictions set forth by Draft Guidance #2, while companies should feel comfortable taking advantage of current social media platforms including those with character restrictions, they should also ensure that the parties responsible for drafting any such posts are aware of the parameters placed on such communications. A hypothetical example provided by Draft Guidance #2 exemplifies some of the potential disadvantages of such messaging:

NoFocus (rememberine HCl) for mild to moderate memory loss-May cause seizures in patients with a seizure disorder www.nofocus.com/risk

While the message complies with each of Draft Guidance #2's directives, the balancing of risk and benefit information in a space restricted communication may have the unintended result of highlighting risk over benefit. Additionally, from a practical standpoint, the space constraints may prevent the inclusion of all necessary information. If a company cannot conclude that "adequate" benefit and risk information (along with other required disclosure) may be communicated in the same message or tweet — particularly at 140 characters — Draft Guidance #2 recommends that the company reconsider whether the use of the particular platform is the appropriate forum for the dissemination of such messaging before making use of such forums, once again in particular for drugs with complex indications or high risk profiles.

As a general conclusion, while the Guidance on Presenting Risk/Benefit Information is self-admittedly limited in scope, and does not address "promotion via product websites, webpages on social networking platforms (e.g., [Facebook, Twitter, YouTube]), and online web banners," it undeniably provides helpful direction for drug and device companies' use of social media sites for promotional messaging where communications are restricted to a limited number of characters, as well as highlighting how the FDA may intend to regulate such use. Companies should pay careful attention to the restrictions while taking advantage of the opportunities these social media platforms offer, and should take care to ensure to instill clear policies that comply with Draft Guidance #2 that are available to, and understood by, individuals tasked with producing and monitoring social media content for the company.

The FDA will be accepting comments on both Draft Guidance #1 and Draft Guidance #2 until September 16, 2014.

The authors acknowledge the assistance of Mintz Levin Summer Associate Nichole Beiner with the preparation of this alert.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Christine M. Wahr
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Morrison & Foerster LLP
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Morrison & Foerster LLP
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions