FDA to probe drugmakers' tweets

FDA to probe drugmakers' tweets
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The Obama administration wants to know what prescription drug companies are saying to consumers in 140 or fewer characters.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking for the public to comment on its plan to research “character-space-limited online prescription drug communications” posted on Twitter.

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The goal: to test whether linking to information about a drug’s side effects can effectively convey its risks when a company also makes benefit claims in the same tweet.

FDA spokeswoman Sarah Peddicord said the agency is trying to assure that prescription drug information is truthful, balanced and accurately communicated.

While research is often a precursor to regulation, the agency would not say whether a rule is planned.

“It is premature to speculate what changes may be made with FDA’s oversight program for prescription drug advertising before the study is completed and the data are analyzed,” Peddicord said.

“However, FDA will use the information from this study to inform its understanding and regulation of prescription drug advertising.”

The FDA has a history of cracking down on drug companies and celebrity endorsements it finds misleading.

Last year, Kim Kardashian made headlines when she failed to include any information about the possible risks associated with Diclegis, a morning sickness drug she was promoting on Instagram.

The FDA sent a letter to the drug company Duchesnay, Inc., warning it about Kardashian’s post and threatening to pull the medication. The reality star ultimately pulled the endorsement from the social media site and replaced it weeks later with a new post that complied with federal guidelines.

The FDA’s notice that it’s doing research on drug tweets comes about two months after lawmakers passed legislation in the House to ban federal agencies such as the FDA from using Twitter to promote their own rules.

Under the GOP-backed Regulatory Integrity Act, the only tweets and blog posts allowed are those that inform the public of the “substance or status” of a rule.

The FDA is accepting comments on its research plan through Jan. 6.