Pharma Industry Can't Advance if FDA Fails to Properly Advise It

Social-Media Guidance Is a Must for Marketers to Reach Consumers

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Given that eight in 10 internet users are looking online for health information, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, it is imperative that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finds a solution to its ongoing battle to provide timely and relevant guidelines for pharmaceutical social-media communications and marketing.

It is no surprise that health-care companies with practical information about treatments are eager to be where the patients already are -- active in social media and social networking. However, the FDA's repeated delays in issuing guidance on the use of social media leaves many stakeholders in the lurch. This is evident in the comment made by Mike Guirari, president of Ryan TrueHealth, in Rich Thomaselli's recent article, "FDA Guidelines Set for '10 Still Nowhere to Be Seen," that pharmaceutical health-care marketers are eager to engage in social media, "but don't know if it's good, bad or even legal."

How can the pharmaceutical marketing, communications and public-relations sectors advance and prosper in the digital age if the very federal agency that regulates their communications is failing to properly advise them?

While I understand the important role of the FDA and the complexity of its assignment, its delay in issuing social-media guidance only leads to a gap in open and transparent communication using a message delivery system that the public understands, wants and needs.

The prolonged absence of needed social-media guidance by the FDA is a detriment to the marketing, communications and public-relations professionals who advise regulated health-care companies, as well as the online patient communities that rely on these communications.

Leigh Fazzina is the 2011 chair-elect of the Public Relations Society of America's Health Academy, and principal at Fazzina & Co. Communications Consulting.
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