While pharmaceutical companies are busy putting forward their argument to market drugs through websites such as Google and Twitter, regulators are taking their initial first steps towards policing the ‘wild west’ of medical information available online.
Drug industries will make their position on internet marketing known during a two-day meeting with the Food and Drug Administration.
The agency has agreed to consider developing rules for internet advertising after companies complained current guidelines for traditional media – which require a detailed list of possible side effects – have left them restricted on the Web.
According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, around 83 percent of Internet users search for health information online.
As a result, several drugmakers have started trying to reach patients through social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube. But overall the industry’s online presence trails other sectors, including retail, financial services and computer makers. In the first half of 2009, pharmaceutical companies represented just four per cent of the £6.6 billion spent on online advertising, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In a public statement announcing the meeting, the FDA acknowledged that “emerging technologies may require the agency to provide additional guidance.”
But some industry experts worry the FDA’s rule development process – which often takes years – cannot keep pace with online innovation.
Copyright Press Association 2009