FDA Ponders Rules For Online Pharma Ads

  • November 11, 2009
The Food and Drug Administration will convene a two-day meeting Nov. 12 to hear the drug industry's position on Internet marketing. Pharma companies would like to market drugs via Google, Twitter and other Web sites.

The agency will consider the development of rules for online ads. Companies complain that the current guidelines for traditional media, including the requirement of a detailed list of possible side effects, make Web advertising difficult.

In a public statement announcing the meeting, the FDA acknowledged that "emerging technologies may require the agency to provide additional guidance." When drug companies have tried to adapt ads to the Web, they have run into trouble. In April, the FDA sent warning letters to Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and a dozen other drugmakers for search engine ads that did not mention drug risks. The sponsored links, with a maximum of 25 words, did not include information about potential side effects -- making them illegal, according to the FDA.

On Thursday, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America group will argue that the FDA should relax its standards to accommodate new online approaches to marketing. The group suggests the agency develop a logo that could be used in place of hundreds of words about drug risks. The logo would link viewers to the drug's full risk information. The FDA also is slated to hear from individual drug companies, medical device makers, attorneys and ad execs.--Tanya Irwin



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