Over the past few days, several articles have popped up with the alarming headline that the FDA is now issuing warning letters due to brands use of Facebook’s ‘Like’ function. You can read one of the takes on it here, in Scott Gotleib’s Forbes article “FDA Wants to Regulate Drug Firms on the Internet and It’s Targeting Facebook ‘Likes’.”
The problem with this article, and with so many of the others I’ve read, is that the ‘Like’ function wasn’t the reason that the FDA issued the letter. Mr. Gotleib actually describes the issue, but ignores it.
He writes, “In its latest Warning Letter, FDA cited a multitude of serious violations against the marketer of a drug product called Poly-MVA. The company had sold its product through the use of testimonials that were not substantiated by good science, according to FDA. One seemingly blatant abuse, still found on the company’s website when Gaffney checked, was a testimonial from a “Mr. Doug Wray,” whose improper endorsement suggests that by taking Poly-MVA, he was cured of his multiple myeloma. In the Warning Letter, FDA also made a novel mention of the company’s Facebook “Like” of one of these exaggerated testimonials. Until now, it was never clear whether FDA would treat a “Like” (or a re-tweet for that matter) as an endorsement of the underlying content. That question seems to have been answered.”
The problem, from FDA’s perspective, was not the ‘Like’ button. It was the exaggerated claims and unsubstantiated testimonials. The FDA will ALWAYS flag those. Yes, Facebook was the medium some of these claims were issued, but Poly-MVA would have gotten that warning letter if they had pushed these claims in print, radio or whatever.
In pharma, the use of social media is a hot button issue, which brands are mostly terrified of using. I would hope that as industry observers cover issues like this one, they would more accurately describe situation and circumstances, rather than publishing mis-leading headlines that are alarmist and inaccurate.
The FDA isn’t sanctioning Facebook, it’s sanctioning false claims. So all you social media nay-sayers and alarmists out there, please calm down.