Singapore’s healthcare product regulator, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), is alleging that a Malaysian dietary supplement company used falsified lab reports when promoting one of its products on its Facebook page and blog.
A Warning on Facebook
The company, Champion Club International Sdn Bhd, was warned about the Facebook post by HSA in a 23 December 2014 update on the regulator's website.
The update clarifies that the product in question, known as "E250," is not sold in Singapore and that no adverse events related to the product have been reported in the country. HSA states in the letter that the agency’s legal department has sent notice to Champion Club requesting that the company take down the allegedly fake lab reports.
The document also declares that, “HSA takes a serious view of any act of forgery,” and warns that, “Companies are strictly not allowed to reproduce testing certificates issued by HSA or carry HSA’s name on its product as an endorsement of their product’s safety.” Indeed, the lab report in question clearly states, “This report is not to be used for advertising purposes.”
”E250” can be found at a number of online storefronts for RM 160.00, or approximately $45 USD. Posts about ”E250” make a number of health claims related to the supplement including its ability to eliminate fatigue, promote regeneration, lower blood pressure and enhance male sexual performance.
HSA did not provide any links to the Facebook page or blog cited in the update. While links to the page or the product in question can no longer be found on Champion Club’s website, posts about ”E250” can still be found elsewhere on the Internet (though are unverifiable by Focus).
Social Media Surveillance
While the primary issue facing HSA in this case is whether falsified lab reports bearing HSA’s name were used, the location of the reports in question shows that the regulator is conscious of how social media may be used in the promotion of regulated products.
This is not the first time a regulatory authority has gone after a company over claims made on social media. In March 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Untitled Letter to a company for statements made on its Facebook page that left out risk information and contraindications for one of its products. In December 2012, FDA issued a warning to supplement marketer AMARC Enterprises which cited the company “liking” testimonials made on its Facebook page as an endorsement of unapproved claims.
Regulators are not just looking at social media as a source for compliance issues related to advertising and promotion. In February 2014, FDA posted a request for proposals to help the agency with social media surveillance for the purpose of “early detection of adverse events and food-borne illness”.
A number of regulatory authorities specifically mention social media (including Facebook and Twitter) in their guidance documents. FDA released several draft guidance documents in 2014 that addressed topics such as character space limitations and correcting third-party misinformation about a company’s products.
Singapore’s HSA mentions social media platforms in its Explanatory Guidance to the Health Product (Advertisements of Therapeutic Products) Regulations 2015, noting that “Facebook and Blogs are considered as [an] Internet medium” and “will be subject to all requirements in the [Health Products Act] and the Regulations.”
Additionally, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) The Blue Guidecontains a section in Appendix 6 on use of social media which discusses some ways in which companies can or cannot mention prescription medicines using social media.