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White Paper Examines FDA Enforcement in Digital, Social Media Realm

April 4, 2013 – A new White Paper, “,” issued April 2 by Eye on FDA/Fleishman-Hillard, is based on analysis of a database of FDA/Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) enforcement letters, and takes a close look at how, in the absence of FDA guidance on digital communications and social media, the agency enforces alleged violations in these media.

“Lacking any sort of formal guidance from the agency, the only peek into FDA’s point of view is to examine enforcement patterns,” according to Mark Senak, Eye on FDA author and Senior Vice President & Partner, Fleishman-Hillard. For the period of 2008-2012, Senak set out to determine how violations by digital communications properties compared to violations by traditional (non-digital) communications vehicles.

“Given the lack of guidance by the FDA, an examination of regulatory action letters over the period of time during which social media became prominent could provide oversight into (1) whether digital communications led to a change in regulatory actions and (2) potential agency points of view derived from action letters involving social media,” the White Paper states.

Of the 173 letters sent by OPDP during this time period, 26 percent involved the issuance of a Warning Letter and 74 percent were Notices of Violation. Of the 45 Warning Letters issued, only 12 cited digital communications vehicles, the report states, and only a single enforcement letter has been issued regarding a social media platform. In that letter, it was the nature of the social media mechanism that brought about the violation, the author notes.

“As more and more people utilize digital and social media to get healthcare information, getting information about the regulatory parameters in which industry can operate is extremely important,” said John Kamp, Executive Director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication.  “There are still more questions than answers, but this paper sheds some important light onto the patterns of enforcement of digital over non-digital communications.”