WOMMA Suggests Principles For Social Media Guidelines

  • March 9, 2010
The Chicago-based Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) wrote to the Food and Drug Administration recommending principles to help the agency provide health care and pharma companies with guidelines so these companies can better navigate social media.

FDA held hearings on this issue last fall and the WOMMA written testimony comes at the end of the FDA's open comment period. The letter to the FDA spells out four core principles that should be used to guide any regulation by the FDA on this front:

1) Companies have a fundamental interest in listening and participating in social media platforms concerning the medicines or products they provide, and the conditions these medicines and products address; 2) Governmental regulation concerning such participation must only relate to those communications that constitute commercial promotional activities sponsored by the companies; 3) Any governmental regulation concerning such commercial promotional activity must be narrowly and appropriately tailored to ensure that those communications are truthful, transparent, balanced and not deceptive and 4) Any such governmental regulation must account for the nature and navigational realities of various social media platforms, such as the ability to use links and space constraints in certain environments or platforms.



WOMMA says the FDA guidelines took on more urgent status when the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications issued a series of notice of violation letters that hold Internet ads to the same standards generally applied to traditional print ads. For example, DDMAC sent one such letter on March 26, 2009 to Biogen Idec that charged the company with distributing electronic advertising that misbrands its drug product TYSABRI, a treatment for Multiple Sclerosis. According to the WOMMA testimony, the DDMAC letters had a rather immediate chilling effect on pharmaceutical companies' online promotional efforts. After the letters were issued, many companies decided to revise their sponsored search results so that product names would no longer appear in URLs. --Tanya Irwin

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