New bill seeks to spur FDA to form clearer social media rules

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.)
Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.)

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) introduced a bill that would force the FDA's hand and require the agency to update its social-media regulations. The bill would also let drugmakers add some prescribing information via hyperlinks.

The FDA should more clearly “regulate meaningful, truthful and non-misleading communication of product information on social media,” he said in a statement.

The proposed legislation—H.R. 2479—has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Long is a member of that committee.

An early draft of the 21st Century Cures legislation included a version of Long's bill but the provision was left out at the FDA's request, according to the Coalition for Healthcare Communication.

Long said that current FDA regulations stymie productive communication online and that guidance needs to be revised as more people take to the Web in search of health information. He also said that the FDA uses Twitter to share information about medical products and drugmakers should also be allowed to use the online platform the same way.

“It is now the norm to go online...and find needed information on just about anything. One would think something as important as personal decision-making for healthcare would be easy to get economic and scientific data to back up [a] drug's effectiveness [sic]. This bill would simply push FDA to update its regulatory approach to communications to keep up with today's technology,” he said.

The FDA released new draft guidance for social media a year ago, providing information about best practices for using social media and how to correct independent third-party information. The agency said at that time that all tweets that include a drug's benefit should be balanced with pertinent risk information, including on platforms like Twitter with a 140-character space limit.

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