I probably don’t need to tell you that there has been buzz recently about the new FDA guidance on social media that is predicted to appear in this year Indeed, John Mack predicted that the guidance would be issued in sections, and he puts forward a theory that guidance on short-format or space-limited communications will be published first. Whether Mack is right or not, this issue will be discussed within FDA guidance, as it has a huge effect on how we currently communicate and share information about pharmaceuticals.
I’d like to examine the current situation from the social sharing widget/link point-of-view. For those who are unaware, social sharing widgets (such as ShareThis allow users to post up snippets of content from your website on to their social media space, for example share with a status update or wall post on Facebook. This will display a small snippet of information and this has implications because invariably these snippets use metadata from your site, which is not part of the content that the user reads – it’s hidden within the code for that page.
The problem? Illustrated by the widely-cited warning letter to Novartis on their use of a Facebook sharing tool. Metadata can be very short and therefore it would make creating this snippit with fair balance very difficult. So with this in mind, how are pharma companies using sharing tools on their sites? My experience when discussing this with clients is that they are not willing to risk being in breach of regulations, and the concept of social sharing tools on pharma websites, even non-promotional ones are quashed very early by regulatory departments, even if the metdata is crafted to remove any claims and can be approved in their own right.
Of course, enterprising companies are rushing to try to give pharma companies more control over their sharing options. For example, there is the Share, Send, Save widget from Intouch Solutions and the competing tool from Bridge Worldwide and ShareThis. Currently I can’t say I have seen these tools being used on pharma-backed sites at all, but at least these give options to allow users to share content with others whilst keeping more control over the information that is provided through these tools.
So the question is, will the new FDA guidance pave the way for additional social sharing tools, will there be enough guidance for Pharma to be confident about using this functionality, and will Pharma take the plunge into social sharing in a big way?
Let’s see what the guidelines say.