The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to study whether links can be sufficient means of presenting risk information about drugs in advertising on social media platforms, such as Twitter, where character space is limited.
"The objective of this research is to test whether a link to prescription drug risk information can effectively convey the risks associated with a drug when benefit claims about the drug are made within character-space-limited communications used in prescription drug promotion," FDA says.
To test this theory, FDA says it plans to conduct four studies, two involving Twitter and two using Google sponsored links, to determine how well participants understand and retain risk information depending on whether the information is contained within the communication or merely linked to.
Under current regulations for prescription drug promotion, drugmakers are required to include a balance of information regarding a drug's benefits and risks. However, on many social media platforms the amount of space for text is limited. For instance, Twitter allows just 140 characters per "tweet," making it difficult or impossible for drugmakers to promote their products on the platform.
"The rise of Internet communications that have character space limitations, such as sponsored link promotion and microblog messaging, has led to questions about how to use these communications for prescription drug promotion while complying with the fair balance requirements," FDA says.
While FDA has yet to provide final guidance on pharmaceutical advertising on character-space-limited platforms, the agency's approach in its draft guidance would require risk information in the body of a communication.
"Regardless of character space constraints that may be present on certain Internet/social media platforms, if a firm chooses to make a product benefit claim, the firm should also incorporate risk information within the same character-space-limited communications. The firm should also provide a mechanism to allow direct access to a more complete discussion of the risks associated with its product," the draft guidance states.
However, many in industry have argued that risk information can be presented effectively by including a link to a page that discusses the benefits and risks of a product more fully, and that including risk information in the communication itself is unnecessary.